What you need to know about the investigation into the death of Tyler Skaggs

Dark cloud hangs over Los Angeles Angels and Major League Baseball from pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a team hotel in Texas on...


Dark cloud hangs over Los Angeles Angels and Major League Baseball from pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a team hotel in Texas on July 1, 2019. Skaggs was 27 at the time, had just married the year before, and some believed he was about to take his career to the next level.

Skaggs’ death was heartbreaking for the sport. For many, it was a painful reminder of the magnitude of the national opioid epidemic and how baseball was not exempt. As federal authorities investigated the circumstances surrounding Skaggs’ death, their investigation centered on Eric Kay, 46, a former Angels executive – but by extension, she also attracted the Angels and the sport.

In October 2020, a grand jury charged Kay with distributing a controlled substance that resulted in the death of Skaggs and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute the opioid fentanyl. Kay has pleaded not guilty.

Ahead of a scheduled October trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, documents filed in court offered a glimpse of what could happen to us. In a recent filing, federal prosecutors explained how they believed Kay obtained and distributed the drugs, and that five other players are expected to testify that they also received oxycodone from Kay.

Kay’s Fort Worth-based attorney William Reagan Wynn did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Here’s what’s going on:

Kay, originally from Southern California, started working for the Angels in 1996 as an intern and by 2014 became director of communications, according to an Angels media guide. The Angels drafted Skaggs out of Santa Monica High in the first round in 2009, and he reached the major leagues with Arizona in 2012.

On June 30, 2019, the Angels flew to play against the Texas Rangers and the next day Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas, hours before their game. An autopsy by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office found fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in the Skaggs system.

The official cause of death was found to be substance poisoning with Skaggs choking on his own vomit. The death was listed as accidental. In a July 2020 criminal complaint, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent wrote without much explanation: “It was later determined that without the fentanyl” in the Skaggs system, he “would not have died.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and can be fatal even at low doses. Although it can be used medicinally, the vast majority of fentanyl is produced illegally and dealers frequently produce counterfeit pills using this cheaper drug, but falsely market it as oxycodone, a prescription pain reliever. .

Both fentanyl and oxycodone were banned as part of the MLB’s Joint Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program. (In response to Skaggs’ death, MLB and Players Union have since updated drug policy take a treatment-based, rather than punitive, approach to helping players who test positive for substances classified as drugs of abuse, such as opioids and fentanyl.)

In July 2020 criminal complaint, investigators said they found several pills and white residue in Skaggs’ hotel room. Analysis, the paper said, later determined that a single blue pill closely resembling a 30 milligram oxycodone tablet and the white residue contained fentanyl. Five pink pills were also found to be legitimately manufactured five milligram oxycodone pills that did not contain fentanyl.

Skaggs’ mother and widow told the Los Angeles Times in 2020 that they were amazed to learn of the mention of drugs in the toxicology report.

According to the month of July 2020 criminal complaint, law enforcement argued that Skaggs and Kay had a history of drug dealing, including at work; that Kay bought pills for Skaggs “and others”; and that Kay had been in contact with his drug contacts in the days leading up to Skaggs’ death. The complaint cited location data of Kay’s cell phone and a search of Skaggs’ cell phone, including text messages showing Skaggs wanted something from Kay and invited Kay to his room the night before he was found dead.

In a 19-page document filed on August 20, federal prosecutors described some of the evidence they planned to present at trial, including testimony from “about five players who received oxycodone from Kay” from 2017. to 2019. The identities of the players have not been revealed.

“The evidence will also show that Kay was motivated to obtain these pills because Kay could himself use some of the pills he obtained for the players,” prosecutors wrote.

According to the prosecutors’ file, Kay, under the username “Walt”, contacted people in the OfferUp online marketplace looking for pills (listed as “M30”, “Roxy” or “Blue”) weeks and months before Skaggs died and asked about their legitimacy.

In March 2019, according to what prosecutors said were chat transcripts from the website, Kay responded to a post for “Roxy shirts size m30 color blue” and asked, “10 for 240 cool? He also asked at one point, “Pharmaceutical grade? No fetish.

In a June 2019 conversation with a user named “Danny” in response to a post for “M30 shirt,” Kay asked, according to the file, “Do you have a chance to make it to Angel Stadium? Where I work. Could you leave tickets for the game if you wanted. He later added: “I just can’t quit work tonight.”

Kay coordinated the distribution of oxycodone to Skaggs and anonymous players, prosecutors said, through text messages or conversations with Skaggs – “some witnesses only getting two to three pills while others would ask for up to 20 tablets “.

Kay, according to the record, was brought home by a colleague in April 2019 from Angel Stadium after behaving erratically, was later admitted to a hospital due to an overdose (“probably on oxycodone”) and entered a drug rehab program. Kay’s mother says ESPN in October 2019, that her son began to abuse opioids after his father’s death in 1998 and sought drug treatment.

Prosecutors wrote that they found white residue on two objects – a razor blade holder and a small metal cylinder – in Kay’s office at Angel Stadium that contained traces of various substances, including oxycodone and fentanyl.

Prosecutors wrote in the file that they believe evidence to be presented at the next trial will show Kay obtained oxycodone pills – the ones they said he would give Skaggs – while he was at Angel Stadium on June 30, 2019 before the team flew to Texas that day.

a ESPN Report in October 2019, quoted anonymous people as saying that Kay told investigators he didn’t think the pills he got for Skaggs were the same ones he took on the day he died, and that other Angels employees were aware of Skaggs’ drug use. MLB said at the time that it was conduct your own investigation allegations.

After hiring a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation, the Angels said the private investigation “confirmed that no one in management knew or was aware of the existence of an employee providing information. opioids to a player, nor that Tyler was using opioids. “

The team’s statement, from August 2020, also said: “We have learned that there is unacceptable behavior inconsistent with our code of conduct, and we have taken steps to address it.”

In a motion filed Aug. 23, federal prosecutors accused the Angels of refusing to properly comply with their subpoena in the Kay case, saying the team too often cited solicitor-client privilege. Prosectors said they were looking for records and information regarding drug distribution within the organization and asked the court to compel the angels to do so.

The Angels bristled at this characterization and accused federal authorities of rushing them to respond to a subpoena request in late July.

“In short, Angels Baseball has always met and conferred in good faith, responded within agreed deadlines (and often well ahead of those deadlines) and produced what was requested,” wrote John H. Cayce, an attorney for the Angels, in a response filed in court. “The only documents Angels Baseball has refused to produce are those protected by solicitor-client privilege and labor product protections, including those relating to its internal investigation stemming from” Skaggs’ death.

(In their court file, prosecutors said an MLB lawyer told them the league would not discuss any discussions the commissioner’s office had with the Angels about Skaggs’ death unless they were be required to do so in court.)

After several delays, Kay’s jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 4 in Fort Worth. If convicted of the current charges, Kay faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Beyond the criminal case of the federal authorities, there are civil proceedings. In June, the Skaggs family sued former Angels boss Kay and former vice president of communications Tim Mead Kay to California and Texas. The family claimed the Angels should have known Kay was selling drugs to players, while the team called the allegations “baseless and irresponsible”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: What you need to know about the investigation into the death of Tyler Skaggs
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