Kirby Sentenced to 9 Years in ‘Mask’ Death

By Matt Pitt Feb 4, 2011
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. -- “These are tragic cases and not easy for anybody,” Judge Richard Toohey stated to a grim courtroom on Friday during the sentencing of Jeffery Kirby for the 2009 manslaughter death of Charles “Mask” Lewis.

Toohey cited the facts that Kirby had two previous DUI convictions, at age 27 and 43, and that both men had been driving at dangerously high speed as influences on his sentencing decision. In total, Kirby was sentenced to nine years in prison, six years for the manslaughter death of Lewis and three additional years for Great Bodily Injury to Lacey White. Due to the GBI charge, Kirby will have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole. With good behavior and credit for time served, he can expect to leave prison in approximately five years.

The day’s proceedings began with Toohey acknowledging the large number of victim impact statements he had received from family, friends and members of the MMA community. Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez stated that he had recieved more than 100 e-mails testifying to the importance Lewis had had in their lives.

“Every state. Other countries. The military. It was more than I’ve had in any other case,” Baez said before the hearing. “These things matter. They let the judge know all the facets of his life. Not just a piece of paper on his desk, but a full life.”

Prior to delivering his sentence, Toohey asked for victim impact statements. First to speak was Dan Caldwell, of Tapout. Caldwell spoke about developing a sudden and firm friendship with Lewis almost 20 years ago.

“Charles was like a big brother to me,” he said. “He shaped my life more than any other person ever has.”

Caldwell recounted the “incredible journey” his business association with Lewis had been and testified to how devastating Lewis’ death had been, both personally and professionally.

Following Caldwell, Charles David Lewis III stepped forward to speak about his brother. He recounted the tremendous suffering the family has endured since the fatal March 2009 car crash. He recalled first hearing about his brother’s death on television, looking at the shattered ruins of a Ferrari and hearing his brother’s name in disbelief.

“I cried like a baby,” he said. “I thank God for the time I had with him.”

White, Mask’s passenger on the night in question, described the devastating physical and emotional injuries with which she has lived since the night of the crash. Beyond her suffering, she told the court the degree of the loss caused by Lewis’ death was impossible to put into words. She said Kirby’s actions had been “irresponsible and selfish” and that Lewis’ friends and family had been robbed forever of the chance to see him smile or hear him laugh.

Finally, Kaya Lewis, Mask’s older sister, spoke movingly about her brother. He had been an answer to her childhood prayers for a sibling and playmate. He was a wonderful brother, a doting uncle, an inspiration to all who knew him. She called for the adoption of a new law -- the Charles “Mask” Lewis law -- to insure stricter punishments for repeat drunk driving offenders and quoted 2 Corinthians 12:7: “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

“I know what it is to live with a thorn in my flesh, to be tormented,” she said. “I know what it means to cry every day.”

Following the in-court statements, the prosecution asked Toohey for the maximum sentence: 13 years in state prison. The defense presented friends and family to speak to the judge about Kirby’s goodness and deep religious faith before asking that leniency be shown. Kirby himself read a statement expressing his condolences to the Lewis family and described himself as “lost in grief and shame.” Members of both men’s families wept silently for much of the proceedings.

“It is clear to this court that we are dealing with two men, both greatly loved,” Toohey announced from the bench. “In reviewing the documentation, I’m struck by the thought that if these two men had just stopped a block earlier, maybe shared a table at Starbucks, that that would have been a very interesting conversation.”

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