A former Los Angeles Angels employee was convicted Thursday of providing Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his 2019 overdose death in Texas.
Eric Kay was convicted on one count each of drug distribution resulting in death and drug conspiracy. He will be sentenced on June 28 and faces up to life in prison.
Skaggs’ widow, Carli, and his mother, Debbie, hugged as the verdict was announced. Kay took off his jacket and tie and was placed into handcuffs, nodding toward his family and friends in the courtroom.
A 10-woman, two-man jury revealed the verdict in a federal courtroom in downtown Fort Worth, about 15 miles from where the Angels were supposed to open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on July 1, 2019, the day Skaggs was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room.
A coroner’s report said Skaggs, 27, had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone was in his system.
Five major leaguers, including Matt Harvey, testified that they received oxycodone pills from Kay at various times from 2017-19, the years Kay was accused of obtaining pills and giving them to players. Kay also used drugs himself, according to testimony and court documents.
In fact, he was only recently out of rehab in 2019 when he rejoined the club.
The defense disputed the prosecution’s contention that Kay delivered drugs to Skaggs after the team traveled to Texas.
Former Angels employee Eric Kay was convicted on one count each of drug distribution resulting in death and drug conspiracy. He faces up to life in prison
A 10-woman, two-man jury revealed the verdict in a federal courtroom in downtown Fort Worth, about 15 miles from where the Angels were supposed to open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on July 1, 2019, the day Tyler Skaggs (pictured) was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room
The widow of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs testified in a Texas courtroom on Tuesday that she did not know the extent of her husband’s drug use and would have intervened if she had been aware of it before his overdose death in 2019. Carli Skaggs (pictured) was speaking in Forth Worth, Texas at the trial of former Angels communications director Eric Kay, who faces faces drug distribution and drug conspiracy charges after allegedly giving Tyler Skaggs the fatal supply of oxycodone that was found to contain fentanyl
On cross examination, Kay’s defense attorney Michael Molfetta asked Carli about a text she sent to her husband before his death in 2019 telling him not to get drunk and fall asleep. In a subsequent text she sent after receiving no response, she wrote to Tyler, ‘You have a drinking problem, I’m about to tell Tom Taylor,’ referring to the Angels’ traveling secretary. ‘You’re asking about a text that I sent out of anger saying something that wasn’t true that my husband couldn’t respond to because he was dead,’ Carli responded to Molfetta on Tuesday. Skaggs, 27, was found dead July 1, 2019, the day after the team had traveled from Los Angeles for a series against the Texas Rangers. A coroner’s report said Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone were in his system
Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday following gut-wrenching testimony from Tyler’s Widow, Carli.
‘I’m sorry, guys,’ Carli told the 10-woman, two-man jury at one point during several pauses to try to speak more clearly or compose herself. ‘This is just really hard for me.’
On cross examination, Kay’s defense attorney Michael Molfetta asked Carli about a text she sent to her husband before his death in 2019 telling him not to get drunk and fall asleep. In a subsequent text she sent after receiving no response, she wrote to Tyler, ‘You have a drinking problem, I’m about to tell Tom Taylor,’ referring to the Angels’ traveling secretary.
‘You’re asking about a text that I sent out of anger saying something that wasn’t true that my husband couldn’t respond to because he was dead,’ Carli responded to Molfetta on Tuesday.
Carli’s emotional appearance on Tuesday came after her husband’s former teammates spent the morning explaining their own drug use, how they got drugs from Kay, Skaggs and other sources. They also said the use of oxycodone was common around the majors, an unsettling image for a league just a generation removed from its devastating steroids era.
Pitchers Matt Harvey, Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian and first baseman C.J. Cron all took the stand and described bits and pieces of recreational drug use allegedly going on in and around the Angels three years ago, when they played for the team. They were with the Angels at some point from 2017-19, the years federal prosecutors say Kay obtained drugs for players.
After saying he was subpoenaed and testifying only because he has immunity from prosecution, Harvey acknowledged being a cocaine user before and during his season with the Angels in 2019. The former New York Mets star said he tried oxycodone provided by Skaggs during his season with the Angels and also provided drugs to Skaggs.
Morin and Cron testified to longer periods of getting oxycodone from Kay, while Bedrosian said he received three or four pills once and gave the rest back after taking one and not liking the way it made him feel.
After saying he was subpoenaed and would have used his Fifth Amendment right not to testify without immunity, Harvey (pictured) acknowledged being a cocaine user before and during his season with the Angels in 2019. The former New York Mets star said he tried oxycodone provided by Skaggs during his season with the Angels and also provided drugs to Skaggs
Morin (right) and Cron (left) testified to longer periods of getting oxycodone from Kay
Of the four players, only Cron is on a major league roster (Colorado Rockies). The others are free agents; Harvey, who played last year for the Orioles, said he believes his testimony will threaten his career. Andrew Heaney, one of Skaggs’ closest friends with the Angels and now under contract with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, was the first government witness last week.
Kay served as the team’s public relations contact on many road trips, and the trip to Texas was his first since returning from rehab. Kay was placed on leave shortly after Skaggs’ death and never returned to the team.
Prosecutors are trying to establish that Kay was the only one who could have provided the drugs that led to Skaggs’ death, and that the drugs were delivered after the team arrived in Texas. The defense counters that Skaggs had multiple suppliers, and that the last time Kay gave him drugs was before the team left.
Harvey said Skaggs had another source but didn’t get many drugs from that source. Harvey said he had his own drug supplier on the East Coast, and said he got oxycodone for Skaggs from that supplier.
Harvey said Skaggs asked for pills before a road trip in June 2019 because he wanted to feel ‘loosey-goosey’ before a start. Harvey said Skaggs told him he once crushed an oxycodone pill and snorted it on a toilet paper dispenser in the Angels’ clubhouse.
Cam Bedrosian said he received three or four pills once and gave the rest back to Kay
The defense asked Harvey and Morin if they were aware of the danger of mixing alcohol and oxycodone, and they said they were. Defense attorney Michael Molfetta asked Harvey if he ever asked Skaggs to be careful.
‘Looking back, I wish I had,’ Harvey said. ‘In baseball you do everything you can to stay on the field. At the time, I felt as a teammate I was just helping him get through whatever he needed to get through.’
Harvey (pictured) admitted that his confessed drug use might hurt his chances of ever being signed by another MLB club
Harvey said he found out Skaggs had died when he woke up July 1 and threw away the remaining oxycodone pills he had, even before knowing anything about the cause of death.
‘I wanted absolutely nothing to do with that anymore, and I was very scared,’ said Harvey, who also said oxycodone use was common in the major leagues.
Cron said he received pills from Kay while with the Angels in 2017 and was still getting them from him after going to Tampa Bay in 2018. He said Kay was his only supplier.
Kay faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and maximum of life on the distribution charge resulting in death. The conspiracy count carries a maximum of 20 years.
Dr. Stacey Hail, an expert witness for the government, testified that fentanyl caused Skaggs’ death, a key aspect for the prosecution since the autopsy classified the death as accidental from the mix of alcohol and drugs.
The final witness for prosecutors was former DEA agent Susannah Herkert, who was a pilot for the agency and testified that it would be difficult for anyone outside the Angels’ organization to gain access to the airport in Long Beach. Part of the defense’s case is that a drug-dealing friend of Skaggs could have met him at the airport and delivered drugs to him.
Members of the Los Angeles Angels place their jerseys with No. 45 in honor of pitcher Tyler Skaggs on the mound after a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners during a baseball game, July 12, 2019
According to Adam Rubin, who previously covered the Mets for ESPN and the New York Daily News, the Mets were well aware of the situation. ‘I’ll say this and then stop,’ Rubin tweeted . ‘The Mets told me a looong time ago, before anything like this was public, that they tried to help him, as did his agent. So they weren’t willfully blind to what was going on because they were getting performance’
Harvey’s drug problems were reportedly known to the New York Mets, for whom he pitched from 2012 until 2018 while earning an All-Star nod in 2013.
According to Adam Rubin, who previously covered the Mets for ESPN and the New York Daily News, the Mets were well aware of the situation.
‘I’ll say this and then stop,’ Rubin tweeted. ‘The Mets told me a looong time ago, before anything like this was public, that they tried to help him, as did his agent. So they weren’t willfully blind to what was going on because they were getting performance.’
When contacted by the New York Post, former Mets manager Terry Collins said he was ‘probably not’ surprised to learn about Harvey’s drug use.
‘There were accusations that were being thrown around the clubhouse, for sure, but I had no proof of it at all,’ Collins told the Post. ‘I can just tell you what guys were saying.’
Collins recalled one specific incident in which a player suggested to him that Harvey was using drugs.
‘There was a time I addressed an off-the-field issue with one of the other guys on the team and his statement was, ”Well, I’m not doing what Matt Harvey is doing,”’ Collins added. ;I said, ”This isn’t about Matt Harvey, this is about you.”
‘I tried to get off that subject as fast as I could. Was there knowledge in the clubhouse? Without question.’
Carli Skaggs, left, wife of Tyler Skaggs and his mother Debbie Hetman, right, are shown with photos of the Angels pitcher on Sunday, June 28, 2020. Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room on July 1, 2019 in Southlake, Texas just prior to a f series against the Texas Rangers. On Wednesday, Hetman spoke at the drug distribution and conspiracy trial of former Angels communications director Eric Prescott Kay, who is accused of giving the pitcher a fatal supply of counterfeit oxycodone laced with fentanyl
Once considered one of the top young pitchers in baseball, Harvey became known as unreliable during his tenure in New York following a missed game in 2017 and several instances of tardiness. He also went missing during the 2015 postseason before the team flew to Los Angeles for a National League Divisional Series.
Collins told the Post that the club made some attempts to address the situation with Harvey without detailing any specific accusations about the pitcher.
‘Was there a time someone said, ”Are you on something,” without naming anything,’ Collins said. ‘That was probably brought up. But pretty much you addressed it as, ”Look, you have got to clean up your off-the-field situation.” That was it.’
Last week, Skaggs’s mother Debbie Hetman testified that her son had been addicted to opioids for years.
As Hetman told the court, Skaggs had battled an addiction to Percocet prior to his elbow surgery in 2014. She said that Skaggs and his stepfather, Daniel Ramos, spoke about his addiction often, according to multiple reports.
Los Angeles Angels fan Pete Soto adds to a make- shift memorial for Skaggs in Anaheim
Skaggs quit Percocet cold turkey, Hetman said, adding that he was given only a high dose of Tylenol as he recovered from his 2014 procedure.
‘I knew my son loved life,’ Hetman said, tearfully, as reported by The Athletic. ‘He didn’t know there was poison in those pills.
‘He was just the most amazing kid. He was a great son.’
Last week, Kay’s attorneys argued that their client could only have given Skaggs the drugs in California, which is significant, because the prosecution must prove the alleged distribution took place in Texas in order to get a conviction.
Kay’s lead defense attorney said his client didn’t give Skaggs drugs that night and there was no way to know whether the fentanyl Kay is accused of providing was the cause of Skaggs’ death in Texas.
Defense attorney Reagan Wynn told jurors Kay entered Skaggs’ hotel room in a Dallas suburb on June 30, 2019, to find the pitcher sitting at a table with lines of powdery substances in front of him. Wynn said Skaggs told Kay a drug Kay didn’t recognize was something he had shared with Matt Harvey, who pitched for the Angels that season.