An anti-mask gym owner in New Jersey continues to defy coronavirus guidelines despite being fined more than $1.2 million.
Ian Smith, the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, has refused to follow local rules dictating the number of individuals who can be inside a gym amid the ongoing pandemic.
A video making the rounds on social media shows Smith inside his packed gym while detailing the actions taken against his establishment by the state of New Jersey.
Aside from the fines, Smith says he has received more than 60 citations and has even had his business license revoked.
Although he has been arrested numerous times as well, Smith says he will never require his patrons to wear masks and argues that rules designed to limit the spread of the virus aren’t based in science.
In an interview on Fox News last week, Smith remained defiant and vowed to disregard guidelines put in place by Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Governor Murphy has thrown everything he possibly could to shut us down. He has arrested my partner and I, given us over 60 citations, some of them criminal,” Smith said. “He fines us $15,497.76 per day for every day we’re in operation. Our fines are totaling over $1.2 million, but every single day, Frank and I open our gym.”
Smith, who claims no coronavirus cases have been linked to his gym, also argued that the government has failed to provide economic relief for businesses.
“All of our other safety measures have kept our members safe and as you can tell with the 83,000 visits and no outbreaks linked to the facility,” Smith said. “People are ready to get back to life and we can do so in a safe manner without shutting down businesses and closing them for good.”
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The public battle has also caused Smith’s criminal past to resurface, with many noting that the gym owner killed a 19-year-old while driving intoxicated in 2007.
Smith ran a stop sign and crashed into the young college student, Kevin Ade, who was pronounced dead on the scene.
The gym owner, who was found to be in possession of marijuana and hypodermic needles at the time, ultimately pled guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide and was sentenced to more than 5 years in prison.
The victim’s uncle, Robert Henchy, says people have begun making donations in Ade’s name to the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers in protest of Smith’s refusal to socially distance.
“It shows he has no regard for the law,” Robret said. “He drove drunk, killed somebody, gets probably one of the lightest sentences I’ve ever seen and now 13 years later, you’re out defying the law once again.”
Robert’s wife and Ade’s aunt Beth Henchy says Smith’s actions have caused their family’s wounds to be reopened once again.
“I used to drive in my car and say, ‘I forgive. I forgive Ian Smith,’ hoping if I said it, I would feel it,” Beth said. “And then I look at this and… I’m angry again.”
Smith responded to the tragedy in a video posted to Instagram, where commenters accused the gym owner of not learning his lesson.
Users on Twitter expressed similar views, accusing Smith of endangering lives.
But Smith has gained a significant following from those with similar views too. A GoFundMe page for the gym’s legal fees has brought in nearly $350,000 and praise from funders all across the country.
Smith says his gym currently sees anywhere from five to 700 visitors every day.
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