Former LA Angels Staffer Charged in Overdose Death of Pitcher

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws during a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., on June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) — A former communications director with the Los Angeles Angels baseball club was arrested Friday, accused of dealing opioids to pitcher Tyler Skaggs before he overdosed and died last year at a Dallas-area hotel prior to a game with the Texas Rangers.

Eric Prescott Kay, 45, made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton in Fort Worth. Filed on July 30 and unsealed Friday morning, a criminal complaint accuses Kay of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

The Tarrant County medical examiner concluded that Skaggs, 27, choked on his own vomit and died on July 1, 2019, at a hotel in Southlake. The autopsy found a mixture of “ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone” in Skaggs’ body and ruled the death accidental.

Southlake police found blue and pink pills in Skaggs’ room and a collected a white residue, all later confirmed to contain fentanyl. Prosecutors say mobile phone records show Skaggs texted Kay that afternoon asking for five pills and later texted Kay his room number.

“I learned that T.S. and Kay had a history of narcotics transactions, including several exchanges, wherein Kay acquired oxycodone pills for T.S. and others from Kay’s source(s) and distributed these pills to T.S. and others,” a seven-page affidavit by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Geoffrey Lindeberg states. “Kay had multiple contacts with some of these source{s} in the days leading up to and surrounding T.S.’s overdose death.”

The agent alleges Kay dealt the drugs since at least 2017.

“In an initial interview with law enforcement, Mr. Kay allegedly denied knowing whether Mr. Skaggs was a drug user,” prosecutors said in a statement. “He claimed the last time he’d seen Mr. Skaggs was at hotel check-in on June 30 … Hotel key card records indicated that Mr. Kay’s room, no. 367, was opened at 11:29 p.m., and Mr. Skaggs’s room, no. 469, was opened nine minutes later, at 11:38 p.m.”

Federal agents later learned Kay told a colleague he had gone to Skaggs’ room that night, according to prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox told reporters outside the Eldon B. Mahon U.S. Courthouse on Friday that Skaggs’ death “should be a wakeup call,” saying no one is immune from the dangers of fentanyl.

“The much beloved Angels pitcher was at the height of his career,” she said. “The public knew him as a left-hander with promise, a good teammate and a hard worker. He was more than just a baseball player, he was a husband and a son. A beloved friend to many.”

The Angels said after Kay’s arrest that “all of us affected by this loss continue to grieve” for Skaggs a year after his death.

“The Angels organization has fully cooperated with law enforcement and Major League Baseball,” the team tweeted. “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.”

The Angels deny that anyone in team management was aware of Kay dealing opioids to players and deny they had knowledge that Skaggs was using opioids.

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