What You Need to Know About the Investigation into Tyler Skaggs’ Death

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A dark cloud has hung over the Los Angeles Angels and Major League Baseball since the pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a crew hotel. In Texas on July 1, 2019. Skaggs was 27 at the time, newly married the year before, and some believed she was ready to take the next step in her career.

Skaggs’ death was a sad one for the sport. For many, it was a painful reminder of the vastness of the world. national opioid epidemic and how baseball is not exempt from it. As federal officials investigated the circumstances surrounding Skaggs’ death, their investigation focused on Eric Kay, 46, a former Angels executive – but in addition, it also affected the Angels and the sport.

In October 2020, a grand jury charged Kay with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance that resulted in Skaggs’ death and conspiracy to distribute the opioid fentanyl. Kay pleaded not guilty.

Ahead of the hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, scheduled for October, the documents presented in court provided an insight into what could happen next. In a recent filing, federal prosecutors detailed how they think Kay obtained and distributed the drugs and that five other players are expected to testify that they were oxycodone buyers 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, a Southern California native, began working for the Angels as an intern in 1996 and became communications director in 2014, according to the Angels media directory. The Angels kicked Skaggs out of Santa Monica High in the first round in 2009 and reached the big leagues with Arizona in 2012.

On June 30, 2019, the Angels flew in to play 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 Coroner’s Office He found fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in Skaggs’ system.

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

fentanyl It is a synthetic opioid that can be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and can be deadly even at low doses. Although it can be used medicinally, the vast majority of fentanyl is produced illegally, and vendors often fake pills using this cheaper drug, but mistakenly market it as oxycodone, a prescription pain reliever.

Both fentanyl and oxycodone have been banned as part of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. (In response to Skaggs’ death, MLB and the players association have since updated their drug policy adopting a therapeutic rather than punitive approach, and assisting players who test positive for substances classified as drugs of abuse, such as opioids and fentanyl.)

in July 2020 criminal complaintInvestigators said they found several pills and white residue in Skaggs’ hotel room. An analysis, according to the document, later determined that both a single blue pill and white residue, very similar to a 30-milligram oxycodone tablet, contained fentanyl. In addition, the five pink pills found were legally produced, fentanyl-free five milligram oxycodone pills.

Skaggs’ mother and widow He told the Los Angeles Times in 2020 He said they were stunned when they learned that the drugs were mentioned in the toxicology report.

According to July 2020 data criminal complaintLaw enforcement argued that Skaggs and Kay had a history of drug dealings, including workplace; That Kay took pills for Skaggs “and others” and that Kay had been in contact with drug contacts in the days leading up to Skaggs’ death. The complaint included location data from Kay’s cell phone and a call to Skaggs’ cell phone, text messages showing that Skaggs had requested something from Kay and invited Kay to her room the night before she was found dead.

In a 19-page document filed Aug. 20, federal prosecutors outlined some of the evidence they plan to present at trial, including the statement of “about five players who took 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 take these pills because Kay was able to use some of the pills she had obtained for the players herself,” the prosecutors said.

According to the prosecutors’ filing, Kay, under the username “Walt”, contacted and asked people looking for pills (listed under the terms “M30”, “Roxy” or “Blue”) on the online marketplace OfferUp, weeks and months before Skaggs’ death.

In March 2019, after prosecutors said there were chat transcripts on the website, Kay responded to a post for “M30 blue color Roxy shirts” and asked, “10 to 240 cool?” asked. Also at one point “Pharm note? There is no conquest.”

In June 2019, in a conversation with a user named “Danny” in response to a post for the “M30 jersey”, Kay asked, according to the file: “Any chance to go to Angel Stadium? Where I work. I can drop you a ticket for the game if you want.” He later added, “I can’t leave work tonight.”

According to prosecutors, Kay coordinated the delivery of oxycodone to Skaggs and the anonymous players, either through text messages or conversations with Skaggs – “some witnesses would only take two to three pills, while others would ask for up to 20 pills.”

According to the file, Kay was taken home from Angel Stadium in April 2019 after being ambivalent by a colleague, then admitted to a hospital for an overdose (“possibly on oxycodone”) and taken into a drug rehabilitation program. Kay’s mother told ESPN In October 2019, she said her son began abusing opioids after his father died in 1998 and sought treatment for substance abuse.

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

Prosecutors write in the dossier that they believe the evidence to be presented at the upcoming trial will show that Kay took oxycodone pills that they said she was going to give to Skaggs while at Angel Stadium on June 30, 2019. Texas that day.

A ESPN report In October 2019, anonymous individuals claimed that Kay told investigators that she thought the pills she took for Skaggs were not the same pills she took the day she died, and that other Angels employees knew about Skaggs’ drug use. MLB said then conducting its own investigation between the allegations.

After the Angels commissioned a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation, the private investigation “confirmed that no one in management knew or was aware that any employee was supplying any player with opioids, or that Tyler was using opioids.”

“We have learned that there has been unacceptable behavior that goes against our code of conduct and we have taken steps to resolve it,” the team said in their August 2020 statement.

In a motion filed Aug. 23, federal prosecutors accused the Angels of refusing to properly comply with the subpoena in the Kay case, saying the team made too frequent references to attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors said they were looking for records and information on drug distribution within the organization and asked the court to force the Angels to do so.

The angels resented this designation and accused federal officials of rushing to meet the request for a subpoena from late July.

“In short, Angels Baseball has always met and negotiated in good faith, responded to (and often well before) agreed deadlines, and produced what was requested,” wrote John H. Cayce. Angels, in his response to the court. The only documents Angels Baseball refuses to provide are documents protected by attorney-client privilege and work product protections, including those related to the internal investigation into Skaggs’ death.

(In their court filing, prosecutors said an MLB attorney told them that the commission’s office would not speak to the Angels about any discussion they had about Skaggs’ death, unless they had to in court.)

After several delays, Kay’s jury trial is scheduled to begin October 4 in Fort Worth. If found guilty on the current charges, Kay will face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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

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