New Jersey Gym owner who defied COVID-19 regulations calls probation sentence an 'absolute joke'

Ian Smith and fellow owner Frank Trumbetti pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal contempt of court

Two New Jersey gym owners who kept their business open despite COVID-19 lockdown orders from Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy have been sentenced to one year of probation.

"Being sentenced to probation for taking the doors off of our own building, while criminals are being let go is an absolute joke," Atilis Gym co-owner Frank Trumbetti told Fox Business Sunday.

Co-owners Ian Smith and Trumbetti pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal contempt of court, Smith said on Instagram Wednesday. The maximum punishment was a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison.

"Thanks to all who joined in on our sentencing hearing. So many came that the server crashed," Smith announced on Twitter Thursday. "We got one year probation for the crime of taking our doors off to prevent government goons from locking us out of our gym."


Despite the sentence, Smith added that the gym is "open and will remain open at any cost."

The charge came after the owners decided to take the doors off of the gym in order to prevent law enforcement from locking them out of the building.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a Get Out The Vote rally with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on October 28, 2021, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The owners made headlines early in the pandemic when they defied shutdown orders and reopened their business, setting the stage for a legal battle that has spanned nearly two years.

The duo have become the face of the movement to resist lock-downs, going so far as to create a directory of businesses that were also refusing to close their doors.

"We're going to hit that critical point where there's too many businesses open to punish,"Smith said on FOX Business' "Varney and Co." in late 2020. "And this whole thing will fall apart like a house of cards."

"Think of it as a Yelp directory for businesses that are defying any and all COVID restrictions," Smith continued. "Whether that be complete shutdowns, arbitrary time limits on when they can and cannot serve alcohol or when they can't serve food."

Trumbetti told Fox Business that they intend to continue fighting, saying they "made a pact that we would fight this tyranny to the end no matter what."

"Today is day 685 of fourteen days to flatten the curve, we've had over 348,000 visits without a single COVID outbreak linked to our facility," Trumbetti said.

Atilis Gym co-owner Ian Smith stands outside the gym in Bellmawr, N.J., Monday, May 18, 2020 as police look on. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The co-owner added that he hopes their story can serve as a "wake up" call for the country.

"If I have to go to jail in order to wake up this country as to how corrupt it really is then I guess that I have to risk that, because what I have is worth fighting for," Trumbetti said. "If they are willing to put me in jail for fighting for our rights, it might just be what America needs to see in order to wake up and fight for what is rightfully ours."


In his Instagram post, Smith signaled optimism that their legal fight will eventually lead to the lockdowns being overturned.

"We plan to take the power away from the governor and set the precedent that this can never happen again," Smith said.

They also have no plans of closing the gym anytime soon.

"Unless we are in jail, Atilis Gym Bellmawr will be open every day," Trumbetti said.