Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis Jr., founder of the popular multi-million dollar MMA clothing line and television show TapouT, was killed on the morning of March 11, 2009, when his Ferrari collided with a Porsche driven by Jeffrey David Kirby of Costa Mesa.
Now, more than 18 months after his passing, the trial for manslaughter charges brought against Kirby has finally begun.
Opening statements were presented yesterday (Nov. 30) in the case against Kirby, who faces a possible sentence of more than 19 years if convicted. Kirby had previous drunken driving convictions (1985, 2002) prior to March 11, and tested at a .13 blood-alcohol level a few hours after the fatal crash.
Toxicology tests performed by the Orange County Coroner following the tragedy came back negative for Lewis, reaffirming the testimony from friends and family that Mask did not drink or take drugs.
TapouT was launched in 1997, with nothing more than a vision and a handful of merchandise — and enough gas in their van to follow fighters across the state of California to promote and sell TapouT clothing.
Now his empire, along with Dan "Punkass" Caldwell and Timothy "Skyskrape" Katz, includes a reality TV show, a line of bottled water, an impressive stable of mixed-martial-arts fighters and of course its massive clothing line, which went from a few thousand dollars in sales back in the late 90’s to over $100 million in 2008.
The TapouT line was acquired by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) back in September.
Kirby maintained his innocence in his opening statement, alleging that Lewis was behind him at the time of the crash, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more developments on Kirby's trial as it progresses.