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Trial begins in UFC icon's death

Costa Mesa man is accused of drunk driving crash that killed TapouT clothing brand founder Charles 'Mask' Lewis.

December 01, 2010|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

With a drunk driving conviction already on his record, Jeffrey David Kirby of Costa Mesa chose to drink and drive again in March 2009, a decision that contributed to the death of a mixed martial arts icon, prosecutors said in opening statements Tuesday.

Kirby, 53, is accused of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after getting into a collision with Charles "Mask" Lewis of Huntington Beach on March 11, 2009, in Newport Beach. Lewis founded the TapouT clothing brand, which is popular in the world of mixed martial arts.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jason Baez told the Central Justice Center jury that Kirby and Lewis were racing their European sports cars southbound on Jamboree Road, south of Eastbluff Drive. Kirby, who was on a date with a female passenger, was driving a 1977 Porsche.

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Lewis was driving a 2004 Ferrari and had a female passenger in the car.

Baez told the jury that Kirby was drunk and lost control of his car during the race, spinning out and facing the wrong way on the street when Lewis's car collided with his. The impact sent the Ferrari careening into a light pole on the right side of the street. Lewis died at the scene.

Kirby is accused of stopping briefly at the scene and then fleeing. He and his passenger were uninjured.

Mark Fredrick, Kirby's defense attorney, didn't deny the basic circumstances of the crash to the jury. Yes, Kirby had been drinking. Yes, he had a previous DUI conviction. And yes, his Porsche and the Ferrari collided while Kirby's vehicle was spinning out.

But proving to a jury why Kirby spun out of control, that he didn't know his car had collided with Lewis's car and that he didn't realize the Ferrari had crashed before driving away in his Porsche, is where Fredrick has his work cut out for him. He is building his client's defense around an argument denying those allegations, which are the crux of the prosecution's case.

Newport Beach resident Katy McCaffrey, a witness for the prosecution, lives off Jamboree Road, not far from Eastbluff. On the stand Tuesday, she testified that moments before the crash, she heard two vehicles revving their engines, then saw the white Porsche speed south on Jamboree. She described it as a flash, saying the car was going so fast that she could only distinguish it by its color.

Baez claimed that police concluded the Porsche was traveling at least 100 mph up the slope on Jamboree.

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