Back in the early days of this unending Covid nightmare, he was among the first refuseniks to lead the resistance to draconian lockdowns.
New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith, along with his extraordinary long black beard, became a regular guest on cable TV as he explained that he just wanted the right to make a living by opening his establishment back up.
And he did indeed open up with great fanfare and national media attention back on May 18, in defiance of an order issued by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy that gyms remain closed. At the time, the authorities looked like they were letting Smith’s act of rebellion slide.
But on Monday, Murphy finally lost his patience with his troublesome subject.
Smith and his co-owner Frank Trumbetti were both arrested outside of their business, the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr.
Following their arrest, the entrance to the gym was boarded up by police, putting a temporary end to the months-long standoff between the defiant business owners and Governor Murphy.
Smith, 33, and Trumbetti, 51, were charged with fourth-degree contempt, obstruction, and violation of a disaster control act, both disorderly persons summonses, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said.
But they wasted little time in hitting back at the governor.
“Welcome to America 2020, where feeding your family and standing up for your Constitutional rights is illegal,” the pair said in a statement posted to Facebook.
“@govmurphy flexing his little tyrant muscles finally – only took him 70 days.”
The Camden County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the gym about 5 a.m. to arrest the owners when they continued to operate their business after a judge issued a contempt order against them on Friday.
The two refused to leave the gym when asked, leading to the charges, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. Smith and Trumbetti have since been released.
After Atilis Gym refused to comply with multiple criminal citations and Superior Court orders, including a contempt-of-court order issued Friday, today law enforcement entered the premises to ensure closure of the gym and to abate the public health risks,” said a spokesperson for Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “As the attorney general previously said, the state wishes it had not come to this, but the gym refused to comply even with a contempt order.”