FORT WORTH, Texas —
Former Angels communications director Eric Kay was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison Tuesday after being convicted of providing counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl that led to the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means followed an investigation and trial that brought Major League Baseball face to face with the country’s opioid epidemic. Kay, 48, faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum of life.
Prosecutors alleged Kay provided opioids to Skaggs and at least five other professional baseball players since 2017. Several players testified during the trial about obtaining and using illicit oxycodone pills, called “blues” or “blue boys” because of their color.
Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas, on July 1, 2019, before the Angels were scheduled to start a series against the Texas Rangers. Kay told police he hadn’t seen Skaggs since the team checked into the hotel the night before and didn’t know if the 27-year-old used drugs other than marijuana.
But text messages between Skaggs and Kay hours before the pitcher died told a different story.
“Hoe [sic] many?” Kay texted Skaggs on June 30, 2019.
“Just a few like 5,” Skaggs responded.
After the Angels arrived in Texas, Skaggs texted Kay his room number and “Come by.”
“K,” Kay responded.
Geoffrey Lindenberg, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who signed the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Kay, wrote, “I believe [Skaggs] and Kay were discussing drugs, specifically in this case, blue 3-milligram oxycodone pills.”
Lindenberg added: “It was later determined that but for the fentanyl in [Skaggs’] system, [Skaggs] would not have died.”
The autopsy found Skaggs died from “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication” leading to choking on his own vomit.
Kay, who had worked for the Angels since 1996, was arrested and charged in August 2020.
Though Kay didn’t take the stand during his trial in February, others discussed his years-long struggle with opioid use — including allegedly attempting to obtain the pills through an online auction site 10 days after Skaggs died — while Skaggs’ mother, Debbie Hetman, testified that her son admitted to an “issue” with using the opioid Percocet in 2013.
The jury debated less than an hour and a half before finding Kay guilty of giving Skaggs the counterfeit oxycodone pills that resulted in his death and conspiring “to possess with the intent to distribute” oxycodone and fentanyl.
Kay has been incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth since the verdict. His sentencing was originally scheduled for June 28, but was delayed after his Texas-based attorney, William Reagan Wynn, was suspended from practicing law in connection with an unrelated case and his other attorney, Michael Molfetta of Newport Beach, abruptly withdrew from the case.
A joint motion filed in May referred to a “claim made by defendant’s mother to Probation related to her recording of Mr. Molfetta.” During a hearing that month, Molfetta said the recording was made illegally, but didn’t offer further details and hasn’t commented.
The legal fallout from Skaggs’ fatal overdose includes wrongful death lawsuits filed by the pitcher’s family in Texas and California that have been consolidated in Orange County Superior Court.
No one else is known to have have been charged in connection with Skaggs’ death. During the trial, prosecutors repeatedly referred to an Orange County woman with a lengthy criminal record who allegedly sold Kay the pills that killed Skaggs and Hector Vazquez, a former low-level Angels employee, who they said connected Kay to the woman.