As defiant NJ gym makes news, donors choose to honor teen killed by owner
BELLMAWR — As a South Jersey gym has been making national headlines by repeatedly defying state emergency orders, drawing crowds of cheering supporters in their parking lot, others have been choosing to quietly honor the memory of the 19-year-old who was killed in an intoxicated-driving crash by a gym owner.
Ian Smith, the long-bearded, muscle-bound owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, killed Atlantic Cape Community College radio student Kevin Ade after crashing into his car in Galloway on April 28, 2007.
According to the Press of Atlantic City's coverage of the case, Smith, then 20 years old, ran a stop sign. The crash turned Ade's car onto its side and Smith's car shoved it into a tree. Ade was pronounced dead at the scene.
Smith was also charged with possession of marijuana and hypodermic needles. He pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide and was sentenced in 2008 to five years and six months in prison with three years of supervised release.
Henchy told NJ.com that Smith's decision to defy the executive order shows that he has "no regard for the law" and that he continues to put lives at risk, this time by opening his business during a pandemic while other merchants have remained closed to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Ade's cousin, Jimmy Connelly, has taken to social media to bring attention to the Kevin Aaron Ade Memorial Scholarship, which is administered by the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
"KEVIN AARON ADE is the name of a hero," Connelly wrote on his Facebook page.
"My family appreciates the attention Kevin is getting. However unfortunate for our own emotions for 'that guy' to be in our faces again, at the end of the day people are donating in Kevin's name and I will always scream his story from the roof tops to anyone who will listen," Connelly wrote.
In a separate Facebook post, Connelly wrote "LET THIS A******S GYM CLOSE- FOR GOOD. His rich daddy made sure he got the lightest sentence after killing my cousin and then running into the nearest house to hide narcotic paraphernalia."
Smith addressed the conviction in a post on his Instagram, saying there is "justifiably a great deal of hated and resentment towards me. This is something I've lived with my whole life. I've never run from it nor would I."
"When I awoke that morning I had no idea there was alcohol in my system," Smith said. "Being a 20-year-old kid no one explained to me those dangers. It was always 'don't drink and drive' and we didn't drink and drive and I made a point not to. That doesn't matter because the end result was the same."
The gym opened Monday with a crowd of supporters and news cameras outside. Bellmawr police cited the owners, as well as some patrons, with misdemeanor violations of the governor's emergency orders. On Wednesday, the state Health Department ordered that the gym remain closed, an order that the gym openly disregarded.
The gym stayed closed Thursday because of a backed-up toilet, which Smith suggested, without evidence, that the Murphy administration was somehow responsible for.
The gym reopened Friday, when state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli filed a lawsuit in Superior Court seeking a judge's order to keep the gym shut. The court action appears to have finally convinced the gym owners to keep their doors closed, at least until next week.
"Slimeball Gov. Murphy pulled a fast one on us at the end of the day," Smith said in a video on Instagram about the state's court filing, acknowledging that "a violation of that becomes much more serious."
"Please just ride this out with us," he told supporters. "Gov. Murpy is pulling all the dirty political tricks that he can possibly do. He is definitely running scared because he is running out of options."
James Mermigis, an attorney for the gym, said Friday that a federal lawsuit would be filed Tuesday seeking to have the executive order keeping the gym closed declared unconstitutional.
"There are several constitutional rights being violated here. Not only due process but equal protection," Mermigis said. "The governor decided randomly, capriciously, arbitrability that some businesses can operate and other business cannot operate. He decided that my clients are non-essential therefore they were told to stay home. They have a fundamental right, a property interest in this business, therefore they can operate their business in there and the executive order is unconstitutional."
A handful of other businesses, some backed by the state Republican Party, have also filed lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to have the orders overturned. But unlike Atilis Gym, those businesses have not chosen to flout the executive orders that they disagree with.
Smith this week also had to explain why he was seen using a megaphone with a white-supremacist sticker, saying that the megaphone had been handed to him.
"In no way would I ever or do I ever or would I ever support any group linked to hate or racism of any kind," he said. "Please take a look at my family. We are a multi-racial family."
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