Atilis Gym sues Atilis Gym citing defamation, libel over Murphy pandemic protest

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Bellmawr, NJ – Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, owners of Atilis Gym of Bellmawr have filed a lawsuit against Christian Lambert, the owner of the original Atilis Gym franchises for defamation and libel.

The Bellmawr gym owners who gained national attention after their year-long protest to the draconic COVID-19 lockdown imposed by executive orders signed by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy face tens of thousands of dollars in legal fines imposed by the Murphy administration. They might even be looking at jail time as the Murphy administration has used their protest of the COVID-19 lockdown as a lesson to others who may want to protest Murphy’s executive orders in the future.

During that protest, Trumbetti and Smith were called out by the man who sold them their gym name, Christian Lambert. Lambert took to social media last year to claim that the pair of owners were engaging in a protest only as a publicity stunt and also claimed they were raising money simply for personal profit.

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In the filing, the investors of Atilis Gym paid $140,000, but now they are invoking a clause in their contract that could have prevented Lambert from making claims that would hurt the Bellmawr business. On June 2nd, the Bellmawr location was removed from the main company’s website.


After shutting down their gym for two months at the onset of the pandemic, the Bellmawr location decided to protest Murphy’s extended lockdown by reopening on May 18th. Trumbetti and Smith approached Lambert about their proposed protest, but Lambert did not sign on, instead he opted to keep the other Atilis Gym locations closed.

As a result of the Bellmawr location’s protest, the pair racked up fines and started a GoFundMe page, much of that money later seized by the Murphy administration.

“This fund will be for the defense of Atilis Gym Bellmawr members as well as staff and volunteers. Money will also be utilized to pay the bills for the months we have been closed due to the COVID pandemic. A few of the members, along with owners Frank and Ian were served with summons throughout the week,” the lawsuit said. “The Atilis Bellmawr Attorney Kevin Barry will be representing all of our staff and members who incur any charges. This fund is to support the efforts to reopen and stay open, as well as assist in any financial hardships the staff or members endure due to the shutdown. From the bottom of our hearts we thank every one of you for supporting us through this tough time- and we are thankful for any funds donated to us. All money not used will be donated to other businesses who have been fined for reopening.”

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“For reasons unknown to Plaintiffs, Defendant Lambert took to social media to defame Plaintiffs Trumbetti and Smith,” the lawsuit reads. “In a series of published social media posts, either through Defendant Atilis Gym’s account or Defendant Lambert’s personal account, Defendants have asserted false statements of fact accusing Plaintiffs Trumbetti and Smith of fraud by running a scam raising funds for an improper purpose resulting in damages to Plaintiffs.”

The Bellmawr location claims to have sent Lambert a cease and desist order and the parties agreed to move forward amicably.

In March of 2021, Lambert posted a message on the Atilis gym Instagram account stating that neither he nor the brand support or endorsed Smith and Trumbetti’s protest.

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“I am totally against Bellmawr, the reason is because ‘IT WAS STARTED AS A SCAM’, and I feel it’s clearly still only about getting others to donate to them…..Yes this thing grew and grew but the point is it was started and continues to be a scam,” Lambert posted.

Trumbetti and Smith now say Lambert engaged in a malicious act that sought to harm them and are seeking compensatory damages in return and seeking a breach of contract ruling against Lambert.