The death of Charles "Mask" Lewis, founder of the popular multi-million dollar MMA clothing line and television show TapouT, shocked the world of mixed martial arts and beyond on March 11, 2009. Now, more than 18 months since that fateful day, the trial of the man accused of causing his death has ended and the verdict is in.
Jeffrey David Kirby of Costa Mesa, California, has been found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and faces a potential sentence of 13 years, according to The Orange County Register.
From the article:
A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about six hours before finding Jeffrey David Kirby guilty of one count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, plus a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury to a second victim.
Kirby, 53, now faces a potential sentence Feb. 4 of as many as 13 years in prison from Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey.
The jury acquitted him of a penalty enhancement that he fled the scene of an accident, which potentially saved him an additional five years in prison.
Kirby, who had previous drunken driving convictions (1985, 2002) prior to March 11, maintains that he feels "deeply remorseful" about the role he played in the car crash.
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.
Now, finally, the family of Lewis and fans the world over can have some closure on this issue.
Stay tuned to MMAMania.com for more developments on Kirby's sentence when it gets handed down in February.