Update: Driver Charged with Manslaughter in ‘Tapout’ Founder’s Death

By Loretta Hunt Mar 13, 2009
The man arrested on Wednesday in connection with the death of “Tapout” founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr., has been formally charged with vehicular manslaughter after a brutal crash left the clothing company entrepreneur’s Ferrari ripped in half by a cement pole in Newport Beach, Calif.

Jeffrey D. Kirby, 51, of Costa Mesa, Calif., has been charged with “one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated, one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury, and sentencing enhancements for fleeing the scene of a vehicular manslaughter and causing great bodily injury to multiple victims,” according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Kirby, who has a prior 2002 conviction for driving under the influence, faces a maximum sentence of 19 years and eight months if convicted.

Kirby's arraignment was continued to March 27 at the defense's request on Friday afternoon at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, Calif. His bail was re-set from $2 million to $500,000 with the condition that Kirby can't drive or consume alcohol.

Lewis’ red Ferrari and Kirby’s white Porsche were observed traveling alongside one another in the same direction on the three-lane Jamboree Road around 1 a.m. PST on Wednesday morning, according to a Newport Beach police officer who was traveling in the opposite direction and witnessed the crash.

“Kirby is accused of speeding alongside a 2004 Ferrari…,” read the release, “… [and] is accused of losing control of his car due to his unsafe speed and crashing into Lewis’ vehicle,” which caused Lewis to lose control of his vehicle and collide with a cement pole.

The Newport Beach Police Dept. has not depicted the accident as a “drag race.”

Kirby was later apprehended with a female companion a few blocks from the crash by officers, who observed the couple walking away from Kirby’s vehicle. Kirby was described as “emitting an odor of alcohol, slurring his speech, and having bloodshot and watery eyes,” according to the release. Kirby's blood alcohol level was recorded at .13 percent approximately two hours after his arrest.

Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. His girlfriend, Lacy Lynn White was ejected from the vehicle in the crash and landed on a nearby dirt embankment. White, 23, was transported to Western Medical Center – Santa Ana, where she was treated for a fractured elbow, lacerations and abrasions.

Investigating officials told Sherdog.com on Thursday that White is in critical, but stable condition and is expected to survive.

Lewis, 45, was one of the co-founders of the ultra-popular MMA-lifestyle clothing brand and a star of the Versus reality TV show “Tapout.” Lewis and his partners debuted their logo in November 1997 and built a multi-million dollar clothing business virtually from scratch, selling T-shirts out of their cars at grassroots events into the early 2000s. Lewis and his partners were noted for their dedication to the sport’s advancement, as well as their generosity as sponsors to countless MMA fighters.

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 6:51 p.m. EST with information regarding Kirby's arraignment.
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