Jury deliberating case vs. ex-Angels staffer Kay

Role of fentanyl in Skaggs' death a focus at trial

3:31 PM ET

Jurors in the U.S. v Eric Kay began deliberations Thursday morning with two stories to choose between: the federal government says the former Los Angeles Angels communications director was a drug dealer who caused the death of Tyler Skaggs in July 2019 by giving him the deadly opioid fentanyl. The defense says that Skaggs’ tragic death was his own doing, and that Kay is merely a fellow addict who had nothing to do with the events of that night.

In her closing argument, assistant U.S. attorney Lindsey Beran told the jury, “We told you at the beginning of this case that this case was about one person, that on June 30, 2019, there was one person texting with Tyler Skaggs about pills: Eric Kay. On June 30, there was one person Tyler invited to his hotel room: Eric Kay. And on June 30, there was one person who went to his hotel room and caused his death: Eric Kay.”

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Defense attorney Michael Molfetta attacked the government’s case, saying it was “reverse engineered” to get Kay because of Skaggs’ celebrity: “Do you think if Eric Kay was dead we’d be here?”

Molfetta also said ultimate responsibility for Skaggs’ death lay with the late pitcher.

“When does a grown man who’s living a life of complete luxury and privilege-he doesn’t even carry his own luggage-when does he take responsibility for his own actions?” he told the jury. “Tyler Skaggs didn’t deserve this; no one does. But he was responsible for it.”

The saga began in 2017 when Skaggs and Kay met, soon beginning a relationship in which two opioid users crushed and snorted pills in the clubhouse. Kay told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 2019 that Skaggs introduced him to a dealer, and paid for both men’s drugs while Kay handled the transactions. Over the next few seasons, Skaggs connected at least four other Angels players with Kay, telling them that Kay could provide them with oxycodone.

On June 30, 2019, the Angels flew to Texas for a series against the Rangers. Before the flight, evidence shows, Skaggs asked Kay for several pills. That night, after the team had arrived, Skaggs texted Kay to come up to his room, 469.

Kay told investigators that he did not have pills with him, and that when he arrived in Skaggs’ room there were already three pills crushed and lined up to be snorted on Skaggs’ desk. In his closing argument, Molfetta said it made no sense that Kay, who gave pitcher Matt Harvey an oxycodone pill in the Angels’ clubhouse, wouldn’t leave them for Skaggs in his locker, as was his practice.

Kay said he did not ingest any drugs and that he was on the anti-opioid drug naloxone at the time. He said Skaggs was conscious when he left.

The next morning, July 1, when Skaggs did not respond to multiple texts and calls from his wife, Carli, team security officials checked his room and discovered him dead.

During seven days of testimony, the government tried to establish that no one but Kay could have given him the pills, the fentanyl in those pills killed Skaggs, and that the transaction took place in Texas.

The defense spent its 11 ½ hours of testimony trying to poke enough holes in the government’s case to establish reasonable doubt: Skaggs had several drug sources who could have gotten to him before or after the flight; no one can say definitely that the fentanyl killed him and not the alcohol or oxycodone; there is no evidence that a crime was committed in Texas, which would mean this court does not have jurisdiction in the case.

The Tarrant County medical examiner, Dr. Marc Krouse, determined that Skaggs asphyxiated on his vomit after ingesting fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol. He ruled the death to be accidental. But the government had other experts review Krouse’s autopsy and the toxicology, and they determined that it was the fentanyl was the “but for” of Skaggs’ death: “but for” the fentanyl, Skaggs would still be alive.

Source: ESPN MLB


Author: Ellen Garcia