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Trial Begins in Crash That Killed Charles "Mask" Lewis Jr.

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"Newport Beach reserve police officer Jonathan Sunshine had been on the force for less than a year when he witnessed one of that city's most horrific car crashes. Sunshine was driving a prisoner in a police van to the Orange County Jail shortly before 1 a.m. on March 11, 2009, on Jamboree Road when he saw two sets of headlights approaching fast from the opposite lanes. "I noticed that they were driving in a close proximity," Sunshine later testified, "then I observed ... a cloud of dust and debris... "I saw a vehicle collide with a fixed object. It split into two pieces," he told a judge last year. "There was a lot of debris that went everywhere. I later realized that it had struck a light pole. "Once I stopped," Sunshine added, "I noticed it was a red Ferrari." Charles Lewis Jr., 45, the driver of the expensive, high-performance Ferrari, was killed on impact. He was better known as "Mask," a charismatic entrepreneur who turned a side job selling t-shirts promoting mixed-martial arts out of a van into a multimillion dollar company. His death shocked the mixed-martial arts community and came at a time when his clothing company, TapouT, was projected to post $225 million in annual sales. After his death, Lewis was posthumously inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in July 2009, the only non-fighter ever inducted. Twenty months after the crash, Jeffrey David Kirby, the repeat drunk-driver who was driving the 1977 Porsche that provided the second set of headlights witnessed by Officer Sunshine, will go on trial on vehicular manslaughter and other charges. Jury selection before Judge Richard F. Toohey should begin later this month. Kirby, 53, could be sentenced to 18 years in state prison if convicted. He has been held in custody on $500,000 bail since the night of the crash. Defense attorney Mark Fredrick is expected to try to place the blame for the collision on Lewis, who -- according to official reports -- was driving at speeds far in excess of the limit as he jousted in his Ferrari with Kirby and his Porsche.

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