Gym owner who flouted COVID laws in California avoids jail time for role in MAGA riot
Rioters clash with police trying to enter Capitol building through the front doors. (lev radin / Shutterstock.com)

A California gym owner whose claim to “fame” was defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus shutdown order in 2020 was spared jail time after pleading guilty to misdemeanor “parading” on January 6 in the U. S. Capitol.

Jacob Lewis, 38, of Victorville, Calif., was sentenced today to 24 months of probation, including 60 hours of community service, a $3,000 fine and $500 restitution in connection with his participation in the Capitol riot. He pleaded guilty on January 6.

Lewis had been tipped off to the FBI by someone “who stated they were a friend of Lewis. This person stated that during a conversation in December 2020, Lewis told them to “watch what happens to the Capitol on the 6th.” This person said that Lewis had shown them pictures of firearms and previously asked them if they could get Lewis’s ammunition, but this person had never seen LEWIS with any guns in person and did not hear Lewis make any threats of violence regarding January 6, 2021,” according to the FBI criminal complaint.

The complaint also stated that Lewis told agents “that he was never told that he could not enter, and that he was “escorted” by the Police in the building. He stated that he did not partake in any violence while he was in the building and that he believed that some individuals involved in agitating were Antifa members in disguise.”

The FBI agent noted in the complaint “At no point does it appear that he has a police escort.”

Lewis had drawn national coverage as a MAGA rioter with a history of defying the government.

"Lewis made a name for himself last year by flouting laws in the name of his political beliefs,” the Washington Post reported. “When Lewis reopened his large gym, which has a 500-person capacity, he did not require customers to wear masks while working out. At the reopening on May 1, 2020, he raised an American flag and set up a cardboard cutout of the Constitution for customers to pose for pictures, Vice reported.

“I’m big on the Constitution,” he told Reuters in May after he reopened in defiance of coronavirus rules. “So if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t, don’t.”

Lewis told Reuters he was reopening to support his customers’ “mental health and freedom.”

You can read the criminal complaint here.