Angels ex-staffer sentenced to prison in death of Tyler Skaggs

Former Angels communications director Eric Kay was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Tuesday after he was found guilty of lacerating counterfeit oxycodone pills with fentanyl that led to the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs from an overdose.

The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means, followed an investigation and trial that exposed Major League Baseball to the nation’s opioid epidemic. Kay, 48, faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum of life.

Prosecutors alleged Kay had provided opioids to Skaggs and at least five other professional baseball players since 2017. Several players testified during the trial to receiving and using illegal oxycodone pills, dubbed “Blues” or “Blue Boys” because of their color.

Skaggs was found dead in his Southlake, Texas hotel room on July 1, 2019 before the Angels were due to start a series against the Texas Rangers. Kay told police he hadn’t seen Skaggs since the team checked into the hotel the night before and didn’t know if the 27-year-old had used drugs other than marijuana.

But text messages between Skaggs and Kay hours before the pitcher died told a different story.

“Hoe [sic] many?” Kay texted Skaggs on June 30, 2019.

“Just a few like 5,” Skaggs replied.

After the angels arrived in Texas, Skaggs wrote Kay his room number and “Come over.”

“K,” Kay replied.

Geoffrey Lindenberg, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who signed the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Kay, wrote: “I believe [Skaggs] and Kay talked about drugs, in this case specifically 3-milligram blue oxycodone pills.”

Lindenberg added: “It was later found that for the fentanyl in [Skaggs’] System, [Skaggs] would not have died.”

The autopsy revealed that Skaggs died of “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication” which resulted in him choking on his own vomit.

Kay, who had worked for the Angels since 1996, was arrested and charged in August 2020.

Although Kay did not take a position during his February trial, others discussed his years-long battle with opioid use – including allegedly trying to obtain the pills through an online auction site 10 days after Skagg’s death – while Skagg’s mother, Debbie Hetman, testified, that her son admitted to having a “problem” with using the opioid Percocet in 2013.

The jury debated less than an hour and a half before finding Kay guilty of giving Skaggs the counterfeit oxycodone pills that led to his death and conspiring to possess oxycodone and fentanyl “with intent to distribute.”

Kay has been detained at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth since the verdict. His sentencing was originally scheduled for June 28, but was delayed after his Texas-based attorney, William Reagan Wynn, was suspended from practice in connection with an unrelated case and his other Newport Beach attorney, Michael Molfetta, abruptly dropped out of the case had withdrawn.

A joint motion filed in May related to a “parole claim by the defendant’s mother in connection with her admission of Mr. Molfetta”. During a hearing this month, Molfetta said the recording had been made illegal, but gave no further details and did not comment.

The legal ramifications of Skaggs’ fatal overdose include wrongful death lawsuits filed by the pitcher’s family in Texas and California, which have been consolidated in Orange County Superior Court.

It is known that no one else has been charged in connection with Skaggs’ death. During the trial, prosecutors repeatedly referred to an Orange County woman with a long criminal record who allegedly sold Kay the pills that killed Skaggs and Hector Vazquez, a former low-level employee of Angels, whom they say that he connected Kay to the woman. Angels ex-staffer sentenced to prison in death of Tyler Skaggs

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