Manslaughter charge in death of MMA figure

NEWPORT BEACH — A Costa Mesa man was convicted Wednesday for his role in the death of prominent MMA figure Charles “Mask” Lewis.

Lewis was founder of the popular Mixed Martial Arts clothing company, TapouT.

Jeffrey David Kirby, 53, was found guilty of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated and a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury, according to an Orange County District Attorney press release. He now faces a maximum sentence of 13 years in state prison.

The juy cquitted Kirby of an additional penalty enhancement for fleeing the scene of the accident, a charge that could have netted him an additional five years behind bars.

The Dec. 8 conviction stems from a March 11, 2009, early morning incident in which Kirby, driving a 1977 Porsche raced Lewis, driving a 2004 Ferrari, up a winding portion of Jamboree Road in Newport Beach. Both men had female passengers in their vehicles at the time.

Reports and investigations of the scene indicated Kirby lost control, spinning several times, before colliding with Lewis, sending his Ferrari careening through a telephone pole and tearing it in half.

Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene while Lacy Lynn White, a passenger and Lewis’ girlfriend, was ejected from the Ferrari and seriously injured.

According to The Orange County Register, upon hearing the jury’s decision, White said: “No verdict will bring him back.”

As reported in the days following the crash, an on-duty Newport Beach police officer witnessed the event, which occurred not far from Newport Beach police headquarters.

The officer was heading northbound on Jamboree when he observed a red Ferrari and white Porsche traveling side by side, southbound. The officer reported that the two vehicles then seemed to be spinning out of control, the Ferrari skipping over the curb and crashing through a telephone pole, which then fell on the car.

The Porsche stopped briefly before continuing on. The officer called in additional units and paramedics as he responded to the accident scene. He also requested a search for the Porsche, which he believed to be fleeing.

The current press release indicates that after leaving the scene, Kirby parked his damaged Porsche nearby on Bison Avenue. A responding Newport Beach police officer quickly found Kirby’s parked car with Kirby and his female passenger, Lynn Marie Nobozny, 32, of Newport Beach, walking around outside the vehicle. Kirby was reportedly “emitting an odor of alcohol, slurring his speech, and had bloodshot and watery eyes.” He was arrested at the scene and reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .13 percent when tested approximately two hours later, far over the .08 legal limit.

Nabozny was also arrested at the time for public intoxication but later released.

DMV and court records reveal Kirby as having a spotty driving history with a DUI in February 2002 and infractions for failing to heed traffic signs, driving without insurance, not using his seat belt and failure to register a vehicle.

Lewis was posthumously inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July 2009, the only non-fighter to have received the honor.

Kirby’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2011.

Jeffrey David Kirby


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