A federal jury on Thursday convicted a former Los Angeles Angeles employee of providing drugs that killed pitcher Tyler Skaggs, the result of a trial that featured testimony from several MLB players.
Eric Kay was found guilty of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute.
The Texas panel deliberated for only a few hours before convicting the former communications director for the Angels.
Skaggs ingested a lethal combination of opioids and alcohol before he was found dead in Texas on July 1, 2019, a medical examiner said. Skaggs choked on his own vomit due to “mixed ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication,” according to findings by Dr. Marc Krouse, Tarrant County deputy chief medical examiner.
The 27-year-old was found in bed, clothed and with no signs of trauma inside his Hilton hotel room in Southlake, ahead of Angels’ game against the Texas Rangers.
Prosecutors said a number of pills were found in Skaggs’ hotel room, including a blue pill resembling an oxycodone tablet that analysis revealed was laced with fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opiate.
The trial of Kay shed light on drug use in baseball with one-time Angels players Matt Harvey, Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian and C.J. Cron all testifying that they improperly got oxycodone pills from Kay.
Rusty Hardin, an attorney for the Skaggs family, said in a statement to NBC News on Thursday that the verdict was “the beginning of seeing justice served.”
“The trial showed Eric Kay’s drug trafficking was known to numerous people in the Angels organization, and it resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of one of their most popular players,” Hardin said.
“We have no doubt that the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct. In the upcoming civil cases, we are looking forward to holding the team accountable.”
In a statement following the verdict, Los Angeles Angels President John Carpino said the organization’s “compassion goes out to all families and individuals that have been impacted.”
“The players’ testimony was incredibly difficult for our organization to hear, and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away,” Carpino said Thursday. “From the moment we learned of Tyler’s death, our focus has been to fully understand the circumstances that led to this tragedy.
The Justice Department said the verdict is a “sobering reminder: fentanyl kills.”
“Anyone who deals fentanyl — whether on the streets or out of a world-famous baseball stadium — puts his or her buyers at risk,” U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham said in a statement Thursday.
The Skaggs family, in a statement Thursday, said they are “very grateful to the government and the jury for seeing this important case through to the right verdict.”
“Tyler was the light of our family. He is gone, and nothing can ever bring him back. We are relieved that justice was served, although today is a painful reminder of the worst day in the life of our family.”
Kay now faces between 20 years and life in federal prison. His sentencing has been set for June 28.
Diana Dasrath and Andrew Blankstein contributed.