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Man charged with manslaughter in Newport Beach Ferrari crash

March 14, 2009|Christopher Goffard

A Costa Mesa man was charged Friday in the death of a well-known mixed-martial-arts figure who died after his Ferrari spun into a light pole in Newport Beach, a violent crash that ripped his sports car in half and hurled his girlfriend onto an embankment.

Jeffrey David Kirby, 51, who has prior convictions for driving under the influence in 1985 and 2002, was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Charles David Lewis Jr. -- the owner of a multimillion-dollar apparel company and known in fighting circles as "Mask" -- was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Lacy Lynn White, 23, was treated for a fractured elbow, among other injuries.

Kirby was speeding in his 1977 Porsche early Wednesday morning on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach when he lost control and crashed into Lewis' 2004 Ferrari, which caused the sports car to veer into the light pole, authorities said.

Kirby and Lewis, 45, were driving rapidly side-by-side before the collision, but it is not clear whether they were racing, prosecutors said.

Kirby left the scene but was soon apprehended, prosecutors said, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13, above the legal limit of 0.08. He could face up to 19 years and eight months in prison if convicted. His passenger, Lynn Marie Nabozny, 32, was arrested but later released.

At the Harbor Justice Center on Friday afternoon, Commissioner James S. Odriozola set Kirby's bail at $500,000, pointing to his prior convictions and saying he posed a flight risk and a danger to the community. His bail had been $2 million. Kirby is scheduled to be arraigned March 27.

The commissioner, who forbade Kirby from drinking should he post bail, ordered news photographers not to take direct frontal photographs of Kirby's face, apparently for his safety. Kirby's lawyer, Steven Cron, said there have been no direct threats against his client, but because Lewis had "followers" in the martial-arts world, it paid to be cautious.

"Whether those people would be seeking revenge, I don't know," Cron said. He said his client was "remorseful" and that there was no indication that Kirby and Lewis knew each other. "As far as I know, it was a random encounter."

Lewis, the founder the TapouT apparel company, lived in Huntington Beach.

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christopher.goffard@ latimes.com

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