FORT WORTH — Eric Kay, a former communications director for the Los Angeles Angels, was found guilty on both charges for his role in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019.
Kay was accused of providing Skaggs with the opioid fentanyl, which was determined to have caused the death of the 27-year-old in a hotel near Dallas. A jury of 10 women and two men found Kay guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death and serious bodily injury. With the guilty charges, Kay faces the possibility of decades in prison.
Kay’s sentencing is scheduled for June 28.
The trial shined a light on drug use among Major League Baseball players, several of whom, when testifying, admitted to acquiring opioids through Kay and taking them recreationally. Matt Harvey, a former pitcher for the Mets, discussed his own cocaine use, as well as his use of opioids, and Kay was portrayed as a team employee who was known for being able to get players the drugs they sought, even as he dealt with his own pill addiction.
While Harvey, who admitted to sharing opioids with Skaggs, was given immunity in exchange for his testimony, he could still face discipline from Major League Baseball. He is a free agent after spending the 2021 season with the Baltimore Orioles.
Skaggs, who, multiple witnesses testified, had an addiction to Percocet earlier in his career, was said to have sent several of his teammates to Kay over the years so Kay could acquire drugs for them. Prosecutors said Skaggs’s death came as a result of pills provided to him by Kay that looked like oxycodone but were actually fentanyl, a more powerful opioid. A medical examiner and several toxicologists testified that it was the fentanyl in Skaggs’s system that led to his death.
While Kay’s lawyers stipulated their client’s addiction to opioids, and admitted he had previously lied about whether he had seen Skaggs on the night he died, their defense focused on the inability to know for certain if drugs provided by Kay led to Skaggs’s death, as well as the chain of custody of Skaggs’s phone. They believed that messages on Skaggs’s phone were deleted by members of Skaggs’s family before the phone could be inspected by authorities and that those messages could potentially have incriminated someone else.
“This case was reverse engineered,” said Michael Molfetta, a lawyer for Kay. “They said, ‘Eric is the guy, and we’re going to get him.’”
Kay chose not to testify.
The closing arguments on Thursday concluded with both sides acknowledging the tragedy of Skaggs’s death, while disagreeing on the responsibility for it. Federal prosecutors said the case was about “one person,” meaning Kay, and that it was Kay’s actions that caused Skaggs’s death. Kay’s lawyers contended that Skaggs obtained drugs from other sources and that while he did not deserve to die, he was solely responsible for his own death.
Marina Trahan Martinez reported from Fort Worth, and Benjamin Hoffman from Connecticut.