Former gym owner vows to fight ‘til end over charges of not enforcing mask mandate

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A gym owner from Plantation was in Broward County Court Thursday where he was facing charges from this past summer when he did not enforce mask wearing at his fitness center.

Mike Carnevale, the former owner of Fitness 1400 in Plantation, said he was not backing down after being arrested three times and charged with failure to comply with an emergency order.

At the time, Carnevale, 31, said he would not enforce Broward County’s emergency order, which mandated that masks be worn while people were working out in gyms to prevent coronavirus spread. That’s what led to his arrest in late July, then twice in August when his gym was shut down.

A small group of people rallied outside of the court in Fort Lauderdale in support of the man who has become the face of the anti-mask movement, at least in South Florida. His supporters carried signs and flags.

Speaking outside of court on Thursday, Carnevale said: “We’re here to say that small business owners are not criminals. Small business owners are tired of being persecuted by South Florida local governments. Health and wellness is not mandated and dictated.”

Inside the courtroom, Carnevale was offered a plea deal of which his attorney, Cory Strolla, said the gym owner declined.

The Broward County State Attorney’s Office offered Carnevale its misdemeanor diversion program. Broward County Judge Robert Diaz plea deal would be 10 days served in Broward County Jail.

Outside the courthouse building, Local 10 News caught up with Carnevale after the hearing.

“We’re not backing down to corrupt Broward County. We’re going to fight them tooth and nail all the way to the end,” Carnevale said.

Strolla told Local 10 News that his client wants the charges dismissed and if they are not, he’s willing to go to trial.

His next court hearing is May 18.

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