Washington Gym Fights Charges Filed For Violating Coronavirus Restrictions, Trial Begins Today

March 3, 2021 by
Credit:Courtesy of Mitchell Pitney
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Today, Double Down CrossFit in Yakima, WA, is going to trial against the Attorney General’s office of Washington state. Mitchell Pitney, owner of the affiliate, says he will fight charges filed against the gym in June, when he chose to open against regulations laid out in the state’s Safe Start coronavirus plan. 

The whole picture: When Pitney decided to reopen in June, his affiliate had been closed for two-and-a-half months. 

  • Pitney said that in April, a group of local community members started working to get gym facilities back open. They met with state representatives and county commissioners, and eventually sent a letter to the Washington state government.
  • “[Our] effort was just denied and pushed away… so we took the information that we had and interpreted it in the best way that we possibly could,” Pitney explains. When they did not receive a response to the letter, he reopened Double Down on June 11 ensuring social distancing measures and a limited capacity. 
  • On June 24, a group of investigators from the Department of Labor and Industries came to Pitney’s gym. “We weren’t really sure what was going on when they showed up,” he says. 
  • “The investigators came in, they did one sweep of the outside of the complex, we talked, and they left for about an hour,” he says. “They came back and said you’re going to get a fine… I asked them, ‘Okay,  what is exactly going on here, what is the exact order to abide by. They couldn’t present that information to me.”

Double Down CrossFit was one of eight Yakima County gyms or fitness centers to be fined in the summer of 2020. The others were all Anytime Fitness facilities. 

  • According to the Yakima Herald, the Department of Labor and Industries “issued the citations after receiving several complaints. The agency said it warned business owners to comply with the state order, and visited each site in person.”
  • The citations “were for ‘willful general’ violation, meaning the employer knew about the safety requirements, but refused to follow them,” the article continued.

Why he’s fighting: “They’re saying that I put my employees and my members at risk by staying open,” Pitney explains. “They’re saying that essentially, without a shadow of a doubt, that COVID was located inside my complex with the dates of June 11 and June 24.”

  • The trial will focus on the restrictions and orders that Pitney violated. 
  • Here’s the deal: I made the decision, and I should be held responsible for that decision,” he says.
  • “As far as our game plan goes, really, it’s just to paint the honest truth. The truth is that [the government] didn’t use their… resources as far as communicating to us, [they] didn’t use those properly. [Their] investigation wasn’t an investigation, [they] basically showed up to the gym and dropped the gavel on us,” he says.
  • Consequences could include additional fines for Pitney and his business along with criminal charges for nonpayment. 

The trial: Pitney says the gym is in this for the long haul. If they win the upcoming hearing, Pitney’s certain it will be appealed. 

  • In an Instagram video, Pitney says that these charges have painted him as a criminal.
  • “I have had my integrity, my intention, and my character called to question,” he says in the video. “I have been called a crook, I have been called a liar, I have had the residents of Yakima, the very people I committed my life to serving, turn me in and turn their backs against me.”
  • “When we rebranded and renamed to Double Down CrossFit and I bought the gym, this is what it was for,” Pitney says. “We could turn away from our core beliefs and get away from the things that got us here… or we have an opportunity to turn into those things, and to truly double down on [what] we believe is true in this world.”

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