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Florida gym owners pardoned by Gov. DeSantis for COVID-19 offenses

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 5:17 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV) - Governor Ron DeSantis and the Clemency Board pardoned a husband and wife Wednesday after they were charged last year with violating local emergency orders in Broward County.

Their crime: refusing to require masks while working out. The Governor called the arrests an overreach.

Former gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale had never been to the State Capitol until before Wednesday’s clemency meeting. They came to be pardoned by the Governor for violating a local mask ordinance.

“So they declined to put people’s health at risk and basically, I think, exercised common sense,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

The couple had refused to order their 2,000 gym patrons to wear a mask while working out.

Their business was seized and closed, and Mr. Carnevale was hit with three misdemeanor charges.

“And it’s just affirmation that we were on to something. We were on to something, so thank you,” said Mr. Carnevale.

The case file in Broward lists six court hearings over the course of about nine months in the case, time the Governor said could have better used to protect the public. The Governor went on to pardon anyone else caught up in a fight over masks.

“I just want to say, we’ve got to stop that. Let’s focus on the real criminals,” said Gov. DeSantis.

The only no vote: Democrat Nikki Fried, who wants DeSantis’ job.

“And all he’s using this is to grandstand, and again, to spew his misinformation about how he dealt with COVID,” said Fried.

The Carnevale case spurred a new law pass this year. Lawmakers limited non-hurricane local emergency orders to just 42 days and gave themselves more power to override them.

As for the Carnevales, it was one of the most trying experiences of their lives.

“You know, we’re business owners, not criminals, so it feels really good to know I can move forward,” said Mrs. Carnevale.

“When you wake up everyday, thinking to yourself, am I going to go to jail for running my small business, it’s a tough… It’s as tough pill to swallow every morning when you wake up,” said Mr. Carnevale.

Now the couple is looking forward, not back and taking the steps to open a new gym.

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