A sizable roster of current and former Los Angeles Angels players and personnel is on the government's witness list for next week's federal trial connected to the 2019 death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, according to documents filed Thursday.
Eric Kay, the team's former communications director, is facing two felony counts of distributing a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in Skaggs' death. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas.
Among the government's potential witnesses are former Angels players Matt Harvey, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Cron, Cam Bedrosian, Mike Morin, Blake Parker, Garrett Richards, and a number of team and clubhouse personnel. Skaggs' widow, Carli, and his mother, Debbie Hetman, are also listed. The government says most of the players are expected to testify about their knowledge that Kay distributed oxycodone to players. Harvey, Cron and Morin are expected to testify about communications with Kay about oxycodone, and Richards is expected to testify that "Eric Kay asked him for unused oxycodone pills."
According to a 2019 ESPN investigation, Kay told federal agents that he regularly abused oxycodone with Skaggs, but that he thought it was unlikely he had given Skaggs the drugs the pitcher took the night he died. He also described a relationship in which the two were essentially partners: Skaggs paid for their drugs and Kay obtained them. He also told agents that he believed five other players were using opiates while they were Angels. Those players have not been publicly identified, but might be during the trial.
Skaggs was found dead in a Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1, 2019, when the team was in town to play the Texas Rangers.
The trial might come down to which description jurors believe: The government says Kay ran a distribution ring within the team; the defense says he was a patsy who regularly got drugs at the request of Skaggs and other players in order to feed his own habit.
The government said in an August filing that Kay communicated with oxycodone suppliers through an online marketplace app, asked suppliers to deliver opioids to Angel Stadium and offered memorabilia and tickets as incentive.
The defense is expected to argue that even if the government can show that Kay gave Skaggs the drugs he ingested that night, there is no way to prove that the drugs are what caused his death. Skaggs did not overdose, but rather asphyxiated on his own vomit while in a team hotel room. Besides oxycodone and fentanyl, a toxicology report showed that he had grain alcohol in his system. When Kay was indicted, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas issued a statement indicating that after Skaggs' autopsy "it was later ascertained that but for the fentanyl, Mr. Skaggs would not have died."
According to the 2019 ESPN investigation, Kay told Drug Enforcement Administration agents he had given Skaggs several oxycodone pills before the team left for the series in Texas. He also told them that Skaggs typically used any pills he provided immediately, and that he thought the drugs he saw Skaggs snort in his hotel room the night he died came from another source. Kay told agents that one line of the crushed pills was not a substance he recognized.