Kirby gets 9 years for killing 'Mask'

SANTA ANA — As Jeffrey David Kirby walked into court from a holding cell just outside of the room, three of his friends and family members stood in support, their faces full of sadness and remorse.

They weren't alone in that eighth floor Central Justice Center courtroom, though.

Between 50 and 60 others: friends, family, acquaintances and mixed martial arts fans of Kirby's victim, Charles "Mask" Lewis, of Huntington Beach, filled the surrounding seats.

They were there not to support Kirby, a Costa Mesa resident, but to see him sent to prison for killing Lewis in the widely covered March 2009 crash on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach.

On Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey sentenced Kirby to nine years in prison for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, causing gross bodily injury and having a previous drunk driving conviction.

He was given credit for 800 days served in custody and will have to serve 85% of his sentence, meaning he still has more than five years behind bars.

Lewis' death rocked the mixed martial arts sporting world. He was better known as "Mask," his alter ego that people identified with his TapouT clothing brand.

Kirby was drunk — prosecutors said he had at least eight drinks before driving — when his Porsche hit Lewis' Ferrari on northbound Jamboree Road about 1 a.m. March 11, 2009.

The collision sent Lewis' car careening into a light pole, splitting the Ferrari in half, killing Lewis and permanently injuring his girlfriend, Lacy White, who was riding with him.

No amount of prison time would bring back Lewis, 45, a father of two, his friends said.

"My brother paid the ultimate price for street racing with a drunk," Charles Lewis III told the judge before Kirby's sentencing Friday. "He took away my twin."

Nearly 10 people wanted to tell Toohey how this crash affected them so he could consider it before sentencing Kirby, but it was eventually reduced to only Lewis' closest friends and family.

"There's nowhere I can look where I have peace anymore," said Kaya Lewis, Charles' older sister.

She said everything, from sunsets to salt shakers, reminds her of her brother.

"He'll never get to walk his daughter down the aisle," she said. "When my granddaughter was born, he wasn't there. At some point and time, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jason Baez told the judge that over the last 25 years, Kirby flaunted laws. He was convicted of drunk driving in Nevada in 1985 and in California in 2002 before the wreck.

Kirby tried to remain stoic at the defendant's table leading up to his sentencing. In a dark suit and tie, he sat with his hands folded in front of him, his head often down, his eyes closed.

Offered the chance to speak, he choked up with emotion and apologized to Lewis' family.

"I'm very sorry for what I've done," he said. "I never should've drove that night. I've never hurt anybody on purpose or accidentally. Being involved in this is worse than anything I could've ever imagined.

"I'm very sorry. I vow to never be a part of the problem again and, God willing, I can be a part of the solution."

Kaya Lewis said Kirby will have the rest of his life to show he's truly sorry.

"'I'm sorry' — those are the kinds of things you hear over and over again," she said outside the courtroom, recalling her time working at the DMV where she encountered plenty of repeat DUI offenders. "If he never drinks again, if he volunteers. You take up that cause. You want to apologize? You make your life become the apology."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World