TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Clemency Board pardoned a husband and wife Wednesday on charges they violated local emergency orders in Broward County last year.
Their crime: refusing to require their 2,000 patrons to wear masks while working out. The business, owned by Mike and Jillian Carnevale, was seized and closed. Mike Carnevale was hit with three misdemeanor charges.
DeSantis called the arrests an overreach.
“So they declined to put people’s health at risk and basically, I think, exercised common sense,” DeSantis said.
Former gym owners Mike and Jillian Carnevale made their first-ever trip to the state Capitol to be pardoned for violating a local mask ordinance.
“And it’s just affirmation that we were on to something. We were on to something, so thank you,” Mike Carnevale said.
The case file in Broward lists six court hearings over the course of nine months in the case, time DeSantis said could have better used to protect the public.
DeSantis has promised 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,” he said.
The only no vote: Democrat Nikki Fried, who has launched a gubernatorial campaign to unseat DeSantis next year.
“He’s using this is to grandstand, and again, to spew his misinformation about how he dealt with COVID,” Fried said after the Clemency Board meeting.
The Carnevale case spurred a new law passed in this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers limited non-hurricane local emergency orders to just 42 days and gave themselves more power to override them.
As for the Carnevale, this 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,” Jillian Carnevale said.
“When you wake up every day thinking to yourself, ‘Am I going to go to jail for running my small business?’” Mike Carnevale said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow every morning when you wake up,” Mike Carnevale said.
Now the couple is looking forward, not back, and taking the steps to open a new gym.