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OC Register: Former colleague says Eric Kay saw Tyler Skaggs do drugs the night before his death


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FORT WORTH, Texas — Former Angels employee Eric Kay, who is accused of providing the opioids that contributed to Tyler Skaggs’ overdose death, told a colleague he watched the Angels pitcher do drugs the night before he was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room, according to testimony Monday.

Kay, who faces charges of drug distribution and drug conspiracy, confided in Adam Chodzko about two weeks after Skaggs’ 2019 death that he was in Skaggs’ room, Chodzko testified at trial.

Kay told Chodzko he turned down an offer from Skaggs to take drugs with him, Chodzko testified. Kay had just returned to the team from a stint in drug rehab and was one of Chodzko’s subordinates on the Angels’ public relations staff at the time.

Kay said he saw three lines of drugs on a table and watched Skaggs snort them before leaving the room, according to Chodzko, who is now the Angels’ director of communications.

One of Kay’s defense attorneys said in opening arguments that Skaggs wasn’t in medical distress when Kay left his room. And a police detective testified on Monday – the fourth full day of testimony in Kay’s trial – that Kay lied about the last time he saw Skaggs in the hours after the pitcher was found dead.

Skaggs, 27, was found dead July 1, 2019, after the team had traveled from Long Beach Airport and before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. A coroner’s report said Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone were in his system.

Kay served as the team’s public relations contact on many road trips, and the trip to Texas was his first since returning from rehab. Kay was placed on leave shortly after Skaggs’ death, and never returned to the team.

Federal prosecutors allege Kay gave Skaggs counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl after the team arrived in Texas. The defense says Kay last gave Skaggs drugs in California and that there’s no way to know whether fentanyl led to his death.

Chris Leanos, who testified Monday under immunity and admitted he was a drug dealer, said he saw what he presumed to be a drug-related transaction between Skaggs and Kay at one of the Angels’ charity events. Leanos testified that he guarded a bathroom door after Skaggs went in.

Leanos, who said he has sold cocaine, MDMA, mushrooms and marijuana for years, testified that he received a text from Skaggs “a week or two” before the pitcher’s death with a request for oxycodone. Leanos, who said he had been friends with Skaggs since 2007, said he rejected the request, that he does not sell opioids and that he told Skaggs that those pills could be dangerous.

Defense attorney Michael Molfetta badgered Leanos on cross-examination, questioning how Leanos could say “anything you want and not get prosecuted for it.”

After trying to get an estimate from Leanos of how many drug deals he had done since 2018, Molfetta asked, “What’s the name and number of your cocaine supplier?” Leanos didn’t have to answer because the prosecution’s objection was sustained.

Southlake police Sgt. Jonathan Macheca testified that Kay said he never saw Skaggs on the night the team checked into the hotel. Kay also never mentioned seeing drugs or knowing Skaggs used drugs, Macheca said.

Prosecutors detailed several communications alleged to be Kay arranging for drugs to be brought to Angel Stadium, and retired DEA agent Michael Ferry said former Angels pitcher Garrett Richards and Skaggs sent hundreds of dollars to Kay in several transactions through Venmo.

Richards is among seven former Angels players on the witness list. Andrew Heaney, one of Skaggs’ closest friends on the team, testified on the first day of the trial. Another witness is pitcher Matt Harvey, about whom the defense has made several suggestions of a drug-related relationship between him and Skaggs.

While questioning a former DEA agent, Molfetta asked whether the agent was aware that in 2019, Skaggs sent Harvey a text asking him to put drugs in his locker because he wanted to pitch “loosey goosey.”

The suggestion that Skaggs pitched in a game while high made its way into the record during Monday’s testimony, but it was more of a tease of what is to come Tuesday when Harvey is scheduled to testify and is likely to face plenty of questions about his own history of drug use.

Molfetta did not suggest Monday that Harvey gave Skaggs the drugs that contributed to his death. But the defense team wants to establish that Skaggs got opioids from multiple sources for years and might have gotten that July 2019 supply from someone other than Kay.

Harvey is expected to tell jurors that he did provide Skaggs with drugs on occasion, but not the ones that contributed to his death. Harvey was on the team’s injured list at the time and did not make the trip to Texas.

News services contributed to this story.

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