Eric Kay, a former director of communications for the Los Angeles Angels, has been charged by the Drug Enforcement Agency with illegally supplying drugs to pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died in a hotel room in Texas last year.
Skaggs, 27, was found dead on July 1, 2019, after police responded to a report of an unconscious man in a hotel room in Southlake, Texas. He was pronounced dead at the scene after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, the Tarrant County (Texas) medical examiner’s office said last August.
Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay has been charged with illegal possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a controlled substance.
“Tyler Skaggs’ overdose — coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career — should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Skaggs sent text messages to Kay on June 30, asking for him to deliver pills to his hotel room.
Rusty Hardin, the Texas attorney representing Skaggs’ family, issued a statement after Kay’s arrest and court appearance.
“The family is deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today were it not for a pill containing fentanyl that was provided by the Director of Communications of the Angels,” Hardin said. “We note that the Angels say they commissioned an independent investigation that concluded no one in management was aware that a team employee was supplying illegal drugs to Tyler. We encourage the Angels to make that report public.
“We are relieved that no one else who was supplied drugs by this Angels executive met the same fate as Tyler. While nothing will replace the loss of Tyler, we are very grateful to federal prosecutors for their diligent and ongoing work.”
The seven-page autopsy showed 38 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone, an opioid medication prescribed to treat severe pain, and 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl, a highly concentrated painkiller that is significantly stronger than oxycodone. It also showed a blood alcohol level of 0.122%; 0.08% is considered legally impaired.
After the autopsy was released, Skaggs’ family revealed through legal counsel that an unnamed Angels employee was tied to an ongoing investigation by the Southlake Police Department.
“The Angels Organization has fully cooperated with Law Enforcement and Major League Baseball,” the Angels said in a statement Friday. “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. Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids.”
If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.