A former employee for a Major League Baseball franchise was found guilty on Thursday of supplying the drugs that killed a young and talented left-handed starting pitcher. Eric Prescott Kay, 47, faces at least 20 years in prison for his role in the Texas hotel room death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, 27.
Police in Southlake, Texas, received a call on July 1, 2019 that Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room. The pitcher had a mix of ethanol, fentanyl, and oxycodone in his system. Investigators found pills in his room, including a single blue pill which resembled a 30 milligram oxycodone tablet but had been laced with fentanyl, authorities have said. Kay, then the Communications Director for the team, landed on law enforcement radar.
“In an initial interview with law enforcement, Mr. Kay denied knowing whether Mr. Skaggs was a drug user,” the U.S. Department of Justice said. “He claimed the last time he’d seen Mr. Skaggs was at hotel check-in on June 30. However, a search of Mr. Skaggs’s phone revealed text messages from June 30 suggesting that he had asked Mr. Kay to stop by his room with pills late that evening. Investigators later learned that, contrary to what he’d told law enforcement the day Mr. Skaggs’s body was discovered, Mr. Kay had admitted to a colleague that he had, in fact, visited Mr. Skaggs’s room the night of his death.”
Officials previously released texts between the men, showing that Kay supplied pills to Skaggs.
[Kay].: Hoe [sic] many?
[Skaggs]: Just a few like 5
[Skaggs]: Don’t need many
Former Angels players Matt Harvey, C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, and Cameron Bedrosian testified that Kay dealt the blue oxycodone pills to them.
Kay was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death and serious bodily injury.
Sentencing is set for June 28. Kay faces a sentence of 20 years to life behind bars, the DOJ said.
Skaggs’ family has sued the Angels, asserting the team was negligent. The family, through an attorney, welcomed news of the guilty verdict.
“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,” family attorney Rusty Hardin said. “We have no doubt that the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct.”
Statement from attorney Rusty Hardin, who is representing Skaggs’ family in wrongful death lawsuits against the Angels pic.twitter.com/bDRbDt7C4b
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 17, 2022
The Skaggs family has issued a statement via their attorneys: “We are very grateful to the government and the jury for seeing this important case through to the right verdict. Tyler was the light of our family. He is gone, and nothing can ever bring him back. We are relieved…
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) February 17, 2022
The team did not mention the lawsuits in their statement expressing sympathy for the family.
“On behalf of the entire Angels Organization, we are saddened by the devastating heartache that surrounds this tragedy, especially for the Skaggs family,” the team said in a statement Thursday. “Our compassion goes out to all families and individuals that have been impacted.”
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) February 17, 2022
“The players’ testimony was incredibly difficult for our organization to hear, and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away,” the team said. “From the moment we learned of Tyler’s death, our focus has been to fully understand the circumstances that led to this tragedy. We are thankful that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have taken the important step to update their drug policies for players using opioids so that they can receive help.”
[Image via Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]
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