A former Los Angeles Angels employee on trial over charges of providing Tyler Skaggs the drugs that caused his overdose death lied to police about whether he saw the Angels pitcher the night before he was found dead, a federal prosecutor alleged in opening statements Tuesday.
Eric Prescott Kay’s lead defense attorney said his client didn’t give Skaggs drugs that night and there was no way to know whether the fentanyl Kay is accused of providing was the cause of Skaggs’ death at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square hotel.
Defense attorney Reagan Wynn told jurors Kay entered Skaggs’ room on June 30, 2019, to find the pitcher sitting at a table with lines of powdery substances in front of him. Wynn said Skaggs told Kay a drug Kay didn’t recognize was something he had shared with Matt Harvey, who pitched for the Angels that season.
Skaggs, 27, was found dead in his hotel room on July 1, 2019, after the team had traveled from Los Angeles and before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed.
A coroner’s report said Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the drugs fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.
Kay faces charges of drug distribution and drug conspiracy in Skaggs’ death. The trial is expected to last about a week.
Lead prosecutor Lindsey Beran told jurors the evidence would show Kay was the only person who could have provided the drugs that led to Skaggs’ death and characterized him as more concerned about protecting himself than caring about the welfare of Skaggs’ family.
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“There was only one person that went to Tyler Skaggs’ hotel room, and lied to police about it,” Beran said.
Kay was the Angels’ director of communications, and he served as their public relations contact on many road trips. He was placed on leave shortly after Skaggs’ death, and never returned to the team.
Wynn acknowledged to jurors that Kay lied to the police. Kay was on his first trip since being away from the team for about a month for treatment of addiction to oxycodone, Wynn said. Kay is accused of obtaining drugs for himself, Skaggs and others.
Andrew Heaney, a teammate and close friend of Skaggs for five seasons with the Angels, was the first witness.
Heaney detailed his efforts to reach Skaggs the day he was found dead, and his growing concern as calls and texts went unanswered. He said the two were close, but he didn’t know about Skaggs’ dealings with Kay. Heaney was traded to the New York Yankees last season and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in November.
Beran said Kay and Skaggs didn’t have a close relationship outside the team setting, but Wynn disputed that, saying, “They certainly had a relationship, a relationship they certainly tried to keep secret.”
Wynn said Kay’s addiction to painkillers went back years, and that Kay first connected with Skaggs during spring training in 2014 when Kay was looking for ways to obtain pills. Wynn said Skaggs told Kay in 2014, “You came to the right guy,” and invited him to the place he was staying in Arizona that night.
After Skaggs missed all of 2015 coming off elbow surgery, Wynn said they “picked up where they left off” during spring training in 2016.
Beran detailed a timeline the prosecution believes made it impossible for Kay to deliver oxycodone pills during or after a home game before the team left for Texas on June 30, meaning the drugs had to be delivered after the team arrived. Wynn said Kay delivered two pills before the team traveled.
The prosecution alleges that Kay gave Skaggs counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained fentanyl. Beran said Kay would often ask suppliers about pills having fentanyl, indicating he knew the danger of the drug.
Heaney is set to be questioned by defense attorneys Wednesday. Six other current or former major league players are on the witness list, including Harvey. Pitchers Garrett Richards, Cam Bedrosian, Blake Parker, and Mike Morin are on the list along with infielder C.J. Cron.
All played for the Angels at some point from 2017-19, the years prosecutors allege Kay was providing drugs to Skaggs and others. Beran said evidence would show Kay kept providing drugs to some players after they left the Angels.