Eric Kay is facing a minimum of 20 years in prison and a million-dollar fine after a jury found Thursday that he supplied the drugs that killed Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019.
The jury in a Fort Worth, Texas, courtroom convicted Kay on drug distribution and conspiracy charges, finding that he gave Skaggs the fentanyl that ultimately killed him.
The government had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kay gave the drugs to Skaggs, and it was the opioids from Kay that killed Skaggs. The jury swiftly agreed, finding Kay guilty just hours after beginning deliberations.
Kay, the longtime Angels communication director, was taken into custody Thursday and will be sentenced on June 28.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the verdict. We thought there were many reasons to doubt the government’s case,” said Reagan Wynn, one of Kay’s attorneys. “This is a tragedy all the way around. Eric Kay is getting ready to do minimum 20 years in a federal penitentiary and it goes up from there. And Tyler Skaggs is gone.”[More Sports] Threat to MLB openers increases, talks end after 15 minutes »
His defense team argued that the drugs could have come from other sources, including former Angels and Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. It also leaned on the official autopsy from the former Tarrant County medical examiner, who ruled that Skaggs’ choking death was accidental and caused by a combination of opioids and alcohol.
None of that swayed the jury, which agreed with the government’s contention that Skaggs would have lived “but for” the fentanyl in the pills from Kay.
The Skaggs family, which is suing the Angels over his death, said in a statement they were “grateful” for the verdict, saying “justice was served.”
Their lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said the trial demonstrated the team’s complicity. “The trial showed Eric Kay’s drug trafficking was known to numerous people in the Angels organization, and it resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of one of their most popular players,” he said in a statement.
“We have no doubt that the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct.”[More Sports] Threat to MLB openers increases, talks end after 15 minutes »
The trial included testimony from five major league players who said they received oxycodone pills from Kay at various times from 2017-19.
The most explosive account came from Harvey, who will likely be suspended by Major League Baseball because of his admission that he gave Skaggs the painkiller Percocet. On Tuesday, Harvey testified that he used cocaine and opioids in MLB clubhouses and dugouts, including in New York.
Skaggs died on July 1, 2019 in a Fort Worth-area hotel room ahead of an Angels-Rangers series. Kay admitted shortly after Skaggs’ death that he regularly sold opioids to Skaggs and other players and struggled with drug abuse himself for decades.
The pitcher was 27 when he died, having appeared in seven major league seasons for the Diamondbacks and Angels. His mother testified at the trial that he had an opiate addiction he kicked in 2013, while his wife struggled through her testimony, pausing several times to compose herself. “I’m sorry guys,” she said at one point Tuesday. “This is just really hard for me.”
“The players’ testimony was incredibly difficult for our organization to hear,” the Angels said in a statement, “and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away.[More Sports] Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu hopes the players’ next proposal will end the MLB lockout, start spring training »
“We are thankful that (MLB and its players union) have taken the important step to update their drug policies for players using opioids so that they can receive help.”
MLB began testing players for opiates, cocaine and other “drugs of abuse” after Skaggs’ death. Players are referred to treatment programs after a first positive test.