Jury Selection Starts in Trial of Accused Killer of Charles Lewis Jr., "Mask" of TapouT Fame
UPDATE: Click here for details on the conviction of the accused.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning in Judge Richard F. Toohey's Santa Ana courtroom in the vehicular manslaughter case against the driver of a 1977 Porsche that crashed with a red Ferrari shortly before 1 a.m. on March 11, 2009, on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach.
The high-performance Ferrari split in two after hitting a cement light pole, and driver Charles Lewis Jr. was killed. The 45-year-old Huntington Beach resident was better known as "Mask," the founder of the mixed-martial arts clothing company TapouT.
Lewis was posthumously inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July 2009, the only non-fighter ever inducted.
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Lacy Lynn White, Lewis' girlfriend, was ejected from the Ferrari and landed on a sidewalk, where she suffered broken vertebrae, a broken hip, a shattered elbow and other injuries.
A repeat drunken driver, Jeffrey David Kirby, 53, of Costa Mesa could get up to 18 years in state prison if he is convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, plus sentencing enhancements for causing great bodily injury to White and fleeing the scene of the crash. He has been jailed since the crash in lieu of $500,000 bail.
But Kirby's defense attorney, Mark Fredrick, maintains Mask was the driver who was at fault.
"The Ferrari was driving much, much faster than the Porsche, and the reckless and menacing fashion in which the Ferrari was being driven was the cause of the accident," Fredrick told the Orange County Register last week. "The Ferrari was going so fast that the car was completely split in half when it hit the pole."
Fredrick added that his client "has been terribly, terribly sorry from day one that the other driver was killed."
Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez counters Kirby was driving with a blood/alcohol content of .13, nearly twice the legal limit, two hours after the Porsche and the Ferrari collided--and that detectives found receipts in his wallet that indicated he'd been drinking in Irvine and San Juan Capistrano watering holes that night. Kirby had DUIs in 1985 and 2002.
Meanwhile, in preliminary testimony, a Newport Beach police officer said Kirby told him he had been driving too fast, speeding up next to the Ferrari so his date could get a good look at it.
Kirby lost control and hit the Ferrari while spinning out on Jamboree between Bison Avenue and East Bluff Drive, alleges Baez, who concedes Lewis may have contributed to the crash but that it would not have happened without Kirby's negligence.
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