FORT WORTH — After nearly four dozen witnesses testified over the course of a week, the trial of Eric Kay over his role in the death of the Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs neared its completion on Wednesday, with Kay’s lawyers resting their case. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday.
Kay, who was the communications director for the Angels until 2019, is accused of providing Skaggs with fentanyl, an opioid that led to the pitcher’s death in a hotel room in the Dallas area that year. If convicted of the charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance resulting in death and serious bodily injury, Kay could face decades in prison.
In a rare glimpse into drug use among major league players, and the problems inherent in the acquisition and distribution of illegal medication, prosecutors have argued that Kay provided Skaggs with drugs that were disguised to look like oxycodone but were, in fact, fentanyl, an opioid that is cheaper to produce but 100 times stronger. A medical examiner and multiple toxicologists testified that the fentanyl in Skaggs’s blood was the most likely cause of his death at 27.
Kay chose not to testify in the case, but a day after Matt Harvey, the former Mets star pitcher, and three other former teammates of Skaggs testified that they had received pills from Kay, multiple other players took the stand on Wednesday. Andrelton Simmons, a shortstop who played for the Angels from 2016 to 2020, testified that Skaggs had planned to go out on the night he died, and Trevor Cahill, a veteran pitcher who spent the 2019 season with Los Angeles, said he had encouraged Skaggs to stay in.
“He asked if he should go out that night,” Cahill said. “I said no. Lay your body down. Get some sleep.”
Another former Angels pitcher, Blake Parker, testified that he had also received pills from Kay.
Parker, who was in tears as he took the stand, said he purchased 10 pills from Kay — he could not remember if Skaggs had told him to seek drugs from Kay — but that he returned them after his hand went numb when he took one.
Parker said that drug use is not entirely uncommon among major leaguers and that pro athletes keep tight circles to protect secrets and their images. He also testified that he had been hesitant to seek more pills from Kay once it became clear that Kay was trying to seek treatment for his own opioid addiction.
“He told me that he didn’t want to go back and get involved with the guys he was getting them from,” Parker said of Kay and his connections for buying opioids. Parker said he did not want to put Kay in a “bad spot.”
The defense also called Garet Ramos, Skaggs’s stepbrother, questioning him about who had possession of Skaggs’s phone after the pitcher’s death, and whether Ramos helped wean Skaggs off a previous pill addiction.
Ramos denied that he had deleted any text messages from Skaggs’s phone.
Charges will be read Thursday morning, and closing arguments will be offered, at which point jury deliberation will begin.