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Gov. DeSantis announces he will pardon anyone charged for defying mask and social distancing mandates

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) delivered some welcome news to a Florida couple facing jail time for violating the county's COVID mandates, telling them on Fox News Wednesday night that he would be pardoning them — and any other Floridian charged for defying COVID rules like masking and social distancing.

What's that now?

DeSantis lifted most of his state's COVID restrictions back in September. Included in that move was permission for all gyms to reopen at full capacity and a proscription on new restrictions from local governments that would close businesses.

But Broward County decided to implement its own COVID restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing for businesses, which was a problem for Mike and Jillian Carnevale, the former owners of Fitness 1440 in Plantation, Florida.

Mike Carnevale was arrested multiple times by Broward officials for violating COVID mask mandates, WFOR-TV reported. One of those incidents occurred in August when he set up his gym equipment in his business' parking lot and refused to ask members to wear masks, according to WTVJ-TV.

The Carnevales told Fox News' Laura Ingraham they filed a lawsuit against the county's mandate that citizens wear masks during strenuous exercise and were arrested 24 hours later. They said they were arrested a total of three times, had their business seized, and now face up to 180 days in prison after they turned down a plea deal for 10 days in jail.

The couple's attorney, Cory Strolla, told Fox that the problem is that they are dealing with a "political activist judge" who was insisting on jail time for not forcing people to wear masks while exercising.

Gov. DeSantis joined the couple and their attorney on Ingraham's show to rip what he called the county's "total overreach" and to share with them that he would be pardoning the couple and anyone else charged with violating COVID restrictions like masks-wearing and social distancing.

"This is exactly what we ordered against last summer," DeSantis said, explaining that he was "just recently" briefed on the Carnevale case.

"I'm glad you have Mike and Jillian on, and I'm also glad to be on to be able to say that, effective tomorrow morning, I'm going to sign a reprieve under my constitutional authority," the governor said.

He explained that his move would "delay the case for 60 days against both of them" and said, "When our clemency board meets in the coming weeks, we'll issue pardons not only for Mike and Jillian but for any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing."

"The fact is, it's not even right to be wearing masks when you're exercising," DeSantis added. "The World Health Organization advises against it. It's not healthy to be doing that in the first place, so it was a bad restriction."

“These things with health should be advisory, they should not be punitive," the governor said.

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