The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has charged former Los Angeles Angels director of communications Eric Kay with supplying the drugs that killed pitcher Tyler Skaggs last year.
Skaggs was found dead in his Texas hotel room from choking on his own vomit after ingesting a lethal mix of alcohol and the painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone. He was 27 years old and in town for his team’s game against the Texas Rangers.
Kay has been charged with illegal possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a controlled substance, by Erin Nealy Cox, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. .
“Tyler Skaggs’ overdose — coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career — should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.
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Skaggs sent text messages to Kay on June 30, asking for him to deliver pills to his hotel room, according to the criminal complaint affidavit.
The Texas attorney representing the Skaggs family issued a statement after Kay’s arrest and court appearance.
“The family is deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today were it not for a pill containing fentanyl that was provided by the Director of Communications of the Angels,” attorney Rusty Hardin said. “We note that the Angels say they commissioned an independent investigation that concluded no one in management was aware that a team employee was supplying illegal drugs to Tyler. We encourage the Angels to make that report public.
“We are relieved that no one else who was supplied drugs by this Angels executive met the same fate as Tyler. While nothing will replace the loss of Tyler, we are very grateful to federal prosecutors for their diligent and ongoing work.”
The Skaggs autopsy showed 38 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone and 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl. It also showed a blood alcohol level of 0.12.
The Angels also issued a statement on Friday.
“The Angels Organization has fully cooperated with Law Enforcement and Major League Baseball,” the Angels said. “Additionally, in order to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to his death, we hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation.
“We learned that there was unacceptable behavior inconsistent with our code of conduct, and we took steps to address it. Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids.”
If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Kay has said the team was aware of his actions.
Four Angels players were questioned by the DEA, include Andrew Heaney, Trevor Cahill, Noe Ramirez and Matt Harvey, the latter no longer with the team. The players interviewed were not suspected of drug use.
Kay was on paid leave from the Angels to seek treatment for his own opioid addiction. Last year, he issued a statement through his attorney. “I felt and continue to feel that it is time for everyone to stand up and take responsibility for their respective roles in this,” the statement read. “Nothing anyone does will ever provide closure for the Skaggs family. I can’t, the Angels can’t, and the courts can’t, regardless of what happens there. But at least I can help them ‘know’ instead of ‘wonder.’ My hope is that there is some peace in that for them.”
ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ said five other Angels were opioid users. Their identities have not been revealed.
The Angels have denied knowledge of the drug use and exchange. They have said they will continue to cooperate with investigations by the DEA, Major League Baseball and Texas police.
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