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OC Register: Eric Kay trial for alleged role in Tyler Skaggs’ death goes to jury


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FORT WORTH, Texas — Federal prosecutors said they proved a former Los Angeles Angels employee was the only person who could have given Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death, while a defense attorney suggested in closing arguments that the government’s case against Eric Kay was built on assumptions.

The jury began deliberations Thursday on the eighth day of Kay’s trial in downtown Fort Worth, about 15 miles from where the Angels were supposed to open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on July 1, 2019, the day Skaggs was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room.

If convicted, Kay faces 20 years to life in prison on a charge of drug distribution resulting in death and up to 20 years on a drug conspiracy charge.

Lead prosecutor Lindsey Beran pointed to a white board filled with magnetic tiles used to build the government’s timeline and told the jury it showed the evidence needed to convict Kay.

“What their lawyers are saying, the arguments, that’s not evidence,” she said, pointing to the table where Kay was sitting with his attorneys.

Defense attorney Michael Molfetta said the prosecution didn’t prove that Kay gave drugs to Skaggs after the team arrived in Texas on June 30, or that fentanyl was the sole cause of Skaggs’ death.

A coroner’s report said Skaggs, 27, had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone was in his system.

Molfetta pointed to the same white board containing text messages between Skaggs and Kay, and departure and arrival times along with other elements from June 30 and July 1.

“Those tiles, these things they’ve put up there, they prove nothing but what’s on the tiles,” Molfetta said. “There are so many assumptions behind it.”

Testimony included five major league players saying they received oxycodone pills from Kay at some point from 2017-19, the years Kay is accused of obtaining pills and giving them to players. He also used drugs himself, according to testimony and court documents.

Beran reminded jurors of the testimony of major league pitchers Matt Harvey, Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker saying Skaggs’ death scared them away from using oxycodone, a pain killer Harvey said was commonly used in a league where players often face surgeries and deal with injuries.

“Blake Parker, ‘I had a flashback to 2017 and I thought it could have been me,’” Beran told the jury. “All of those people were one pill away from dying alone in a hotel room from a drug that Eric Kay gave them.”

An expert testified for the government that Skaggs died because of the fentanyl, which is significantly more potent than oxycodone. The defense countered that there’s no way to prove fentanyl caused Skaggs’ death.

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.

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