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.
One year later, the Lewis family still waits for justice.
While most of the mixed martial arts community has been able to accept Mask's passing while pressing forward in honor of his memory, his sister Carla Lewis continues to face it on a daily basis as the trial of Kirby, now scheduled for April 2, 2010, continues to drag on.
Kirby had been charged with vehicular manslaughter and is facing a possible sentence of more than 19 years if convicted. However, like most court cases, lengthy delays are no longer the exception and have instead become the rule.
"For the past year Charles' attorney and myself have repeatedly come before the Judge, wanting our case sent to trial," Lewis said. "Kirby has changed his attorney several times and has not appeared, at least twice. The last court date had in attendance several family members and friends who had traveled a great distance, just to be told we have to come back. It is quite frustrating, to say the least."
"We were given a long course judge, the pre-trial and jury selection begins April 2," continued Lewis. "Unfortunately, I imagine several court dates will be involved before Kirby's attorneys have a chance to mount his defense [as] Kirby refused to acknowledge he was under the influence."
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.
In his personal life, Lewis Jr. built another empire, one of family and friends. One that his sister Carla will never forget.
"He is deeply missed by his two younger brothers, his children, his nieces/nephews and me."