Jeffrey David Kirby, Driver Who Killed TapouT's Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr., Loses Appeal Bid
The state appellate court has upheld the conviction of Jeffrey David Kirby, the Costa Mesa drunken driver who plowed his Porsche into a Ferrari driven by Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr. in Newport Beach in 2009, killing the Huntington Beach co-founder of the Tapout MMA clothing brand.
Kirby argued in his appeal that the trial court wrongly allowed an accident reconstructionist to calculate the speed of the cars before the crash based on experimental evidence.
The appellant also claimed the trial prosecution failed to prove he caused the accident, which would get at the very heart of his manslaughter conviction.
But in its opinion, a three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana disagreed:
Kirby contends [the reconstructionist's] calculations and conclusions do not fill the evidentiary gap and claims the Ferrari could have veered into the Porsche. However, a reviewing court does not reweigh evidence. In light of the expert testimony, Kirby's statements and his estimated speed and blood alcohol level, a rational juror could have found he was the cause of the accident. Substantial evidence supports the judgment.
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Around 1 a.m. on March 11, 2009, 53-year-old Kirby was speeding in his 1977 Porsche with a female passenger, alongside the 2004 Ferrari driven by Lewis, who also had a female passenger, on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach. Kirby lost control and clipped the Ferrari, which crashed into a cement light pole and was torn in half. Kirby swerved and came to a stop for several seconds before speeding away.
A Newport Beach Police officer, who had been passing northbound on Jamboree, saw the crash, stopped to help 45-year-old Lewis and called for back up. Lewis was trapped inside the front half of the Ferrari, which had to be dismantled in order to remove him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His 23-year-old passenger, Lacy Lynn White, was ejected from the car and landed on the nearby dirt embankment. She was hospitalized with several bone fractures, lacerations and abrasions but survived.
Kirby parked his damaged Porsche on Bison Avenue and had just emerged with his passenger when a responding Newport Beach cop pulled up. Kirby, who had been convicted before of drunken driving, smelled of alcohol, slurred his speech and displayed bloodshot and watery eyes. He was arrested right there, and two hours after the crash Kirby still had a blood alcohol level of .13 percent.
After a jury in December 2011 convicted Kirby on one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated and a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury, the judge sentenced him to nine years in state prison.
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