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Man sentenced to 9 years in state prison for crash that killed TapouT clothing co-founder

February 4, 2011 |  5:44 pm

The man convicted of killing mixed martial arts pioneer and TapouT clothing line co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. in a high-speed crash in 2009 was sentenced Friday to nine years in state prison.

Jeffrey David Kirby, 53, of Costa Mesa was found guilty Dec. 8 of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury. Kirby had a previous conviction in 2002 for driving under the influence, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors said that about 1 a.m. on March 11, 2009, Kirby was speeding in his white 1977 Porsche alongside Lewis’ red Ferrari; they were heading south on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach. Both drivers were accompanied by female passengers and each car was traveling faster than 100 mph. Witnesses told police it looked like a “cat-and-mouse game.”

Kirby, who was later found to be under the influence of alcohol, lost control of his car and crashed into Lewis’ vehicle, sending it into a concrete light pole and splitting it in half. The crash threw Lewis’ passenger, Lacy Lynn White, onto a dirt embankment. She suffered multiple fractures.

Kirby’s vehicle swerved and came to a stop for several seconds before he fled the scene.

Lewis was trapped inside the front half of the Ferrari, which had to be dismantled to free him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

After leaving the crash scene, Kirby parked his Porsche about a quarter-mile away. He was later arrested by a Newport Beach police officer. About two hours after the crash, Kirby had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13%; the legal limit in California is 0.08%.

During victim impact statements Friday, Dan Caldwell, the co-founder of TapouT, told the court that Lewis, 45, was an inspiration and had a positive effect on everyone.  Caldwell and Lewis started the clothing company in 1997, selling T-shirts out of the trunks of their cars to earn gas money.

“They did something amazing,” Jason Baez, an Orange County deputy district attorney, said of Lewis and the clothing line, which became a multimillion-dollar company. “They are like the American dream.” 


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Jeffrey David Kirby, left, sits in Superior Court in Santa Ana, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011 with his attorney Mark Fredrick just prior to being sentenced to nine years in state prison in the high-speed 2009 crash that killed TapouT co-founder Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr. Credit: Mark Rightmire / AP