Sports

Angels exec found guilty of causing pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ death


Eric Kay was found guilty this afternoon on two counts related to the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Eric Kay was found guilty this afternoon on two counts related to the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Photo: AP

Nearly three years after Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his Dallas hotel room on July 1, 2019, a jury found former team executive Eric Kay guilty of distributing fentanyl-laced narcotics and causing the death of the 27-year-old.

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The original autopsy, done by Dr. Marc Krouse, the former deputy chief of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office in Texas, ruled that Skaggs asphyxiated on his vomit and that his death was accidental. Krouse, who lost his job after a series of mistakes were found in several unrelated cases, testified on Thursday.

Predictably, Krouse stood by his original ruling, but added a caveat that the fentanyl increased the probability of Skaggs’ death, though he couldn’t say for sure it caused it. Then, on Friday, the medical examiner who replaced Krouse testified that Skaggs died of an overdose from fentanyl. The most serious count of Kay’s trial hinged on this vital question: What killed Skaggs? In only a few hours of deliberation, the jury sided with the government. The defense also tried to prove that Kay couldn’t have been the one who provided Skaggs with the pills, given that the road trip to Texas was Kay’s first since finishing a stint in rehab.

In closing arguments, the lead prosecutor argued that the government proved Kay was the only one who could have given Skaggs the drugs that led to his death, told the jury how he delivered it in Texas, and said fentanyl was the cause of Skaggs’ death.

Kay’s lead defense attorney, Michael Molfetta, said prosecutors could not prove Kay gave Skaggs opioids after the team landed in Texas on a flight from California or that fentanyl was the sole cause. Kay, who served as the Angels’ communications director, was immediately taken into custody until his scheduled sentencing on June 28.

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The guilty verdict is not the end of this saga for Kay, the Skaggs family, MLB, or even Skaggs’ ex-teammates who testified on the stand this week, as Kay now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison. The Skaggs family is also suing the Angels for negligence in a separate civil case. The lawsuits were filed in July 2021 by Skaggs’ wife and parents in California and Texas state courts.

Ultimately, the trial led to explosive revelations about the inner workings of the Los Angeles Angels’ clubhouse and its underground drug scene. According to the prosecution, Kay used his access to players as the team’s director of communications to serve as their de facto drug dealer. The defense maintained that Skaggs had a variety of methods to purchase opioids.

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Sometime between 2017 and 2019, Skaggs became the supplier for multiple members of the Angels organization, who would often use opioids in the clubhouse and even during games, according to testimony heard over the course of the trial. On Monday, the defense presented a text message from Skaggs requesting pills from teammate Matt Harvey because he wanted to be “loosey goosey” before he pitched.

Harvey, who testified on Tuesday that Kay supplied him with oxycodone on a number of occasions, said he was a regular cocaine user until he met Skaggs as a member of the Angels. Skaggs introduced him to oxycodone, which he began using, along with Percocet.

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Harvey, to whom the government extended immunity in exchange for his testimony, also said he was given what appeared to be a blue, 30-milligram oxycodone pill by Kay the day before Skaggs’ death. After deciding against taking the pill that night, Harvey went home. The following day, Harvey learned of Skaggs’ death and threw out the blue pill in his locker. As a result of his testimony, Harvey may face a 60-day suspension from Major League Baseball.

The Angels conducted an independent investigation into Skaggs’ death, which found that management “did not know that Tyler was using opioids nor was anyone in management aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player.”

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