A former Los Angeles Angels baseball executive was sentenced to 22 years in prison Tuesday after he was convicted of providing fentanyl-laced pills that contributed to the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Eric Kay, 48, was convicted in February of distributing drugs leading to death and possession of drugs with intent to distribute in connection with the overdose of Skaggs, who was found dead in a Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1, 2019.
Kay, the former communications director of the Anaheim, California-based team, was eligible for a 20-year sentence, but life was also a possibility, according to federal prosecutors who took their case to U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.
He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means.
"We are very grateful to everyone who worked so hard to investigate and prosecute Eric Kay," Skaggs' family said in a statement. "Today's sentencing isn't about the number of years the defendant received. The real issue in this case is holding accountable the people who are distributing the deadly drug fentanyl."
In a written statement Tuesday the team said, "On behalf of the entire Angels Organization, our compassion goes out to the Skaggs family on this difficult day."
Cody L. Cofer, Kay's attorney, said Kay will appeal.
"Mr. Kay will immediately file his notice of appeal and continue to fight the allegations," he said by email. "This was a tragic circumstance. Our hearts break for Tyler Skaggs's family."
During sentencing proceedings, prosecutors presented jailhouse calls and emails in which Kay showed little remorse, mocked the deceased and his family and even criticized jurors’ appearance.
"I hope people realize what a piece of sh-- he is," prosecutors said Kay told his mother about Skaggs in a recorded call. "Well, he’s dead, so f--- 'em."
Prosecutors alleged that he also called Skaggs' family "white trash" and that he said they were interested in the possibility that his death could create moneymaking publicity.
"They may get more money with him dead than he was playing because he sucked," prosecutors quoted Kay as saying.
They also accused him of describing jurors as overweight and "sloppy, toothless, and unemployed.”
Authorities said Kay's phone revealed that Skaggs had texted him the night before he died with a request that he drop by his room with pills.
The team was in the Dallas-Fort Worth region for a four-game series against the Texas Rangers, based in nearby Arlington.
Prosecutors said Kay told a witness he visited Skaggs that night. They said Kay dealt pills, including the "blue boys" that contributed to Skaggs' death, to multiple players at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Among the former Angels players who testified Kay sold pills were Matt Harvey, C.J. Cron, Mike Morin and Cameron Bedrosian.
In the hotel room where Skaggs was found dead, investigators found a blue pill determined to have been laced with the potent and often deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, the office of the U.S. attorney for Northern Texas has said.
The pill included the stamping of the "blue boys" known to other players: "M/30."
The Tarrant County medical examiner's office determined that Skaggs had a mixture of ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone in his system when he died. It said he choked to death on his vomit after an overdose.
The conclusion included a determination that "but for the fentanyl, Mr. Skaggs would not have died," the U.S. attorney's office said in 2020.
"One fentanyl pill can kill," U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham said in a statement. "That’s why our office is committed to holding to account anyone who deals in illicit opioids, whether they operate in back alleyways or world class stadiums.”
He added, "Mr. Skaggs did not deserve to die this way. No one does."