The trial of former Los Angeles Angels employee Eric Kay for his role in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs begins in Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas — Both sides in the United States against Eric Kay, which started on Tuesday, said jurors would see a number of major league players who received opioids from Kay in the Angels clubhouse from Los Angeles.

Kay, the team’s former communications director, faces criminal charges of distributing opioids and causing the opioid-related death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019 while on a road trip in Texas. .

During the defense team’s opening statement, attorney Reagan Wynn indicated that the defense will name former All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey as a potential drug source for Skaggs. While laying out the defense’s version of events, Wynn told the jury that Kay saw Skaggs sniffing lines of crushed pills the night he died, two blue and one pink, and asked Skaggs where the pill came from. pink.

“Tyler Skaggs said to him, ‘Those are Percocets I got from Harvey,'” Wynn said. The government did not name Harvey in its opening statement, but said a player would testify that he once gave Skaggs pink pills but denied doing so before the fatal road trip. Harvey is expected to testify as a government witness later this week. Harvey’s agent Scott Boras said he was unable to comment.

No Percocet was found in Skaggs’ system, but the government identified one of the drugs found in Skaggs’ room as the prescription opioid.

Wynn also said that Kay, a known opioid addict, sometimes got pills from the umpires’ clubhouse attendant at Angel Stadium, Hector Vazquez. Vazquez could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

With Vazquez’s alleged involvement and the prospect of multiple players admitting drug abuse, the case brings to mind the 1985 Major League Baseball drug scandal that saw 11 major league players suspended for cocaine use. and remains one of the darkest episodes of the game.

The government presented a portrayal of Kay as a drug dealer who was the sole source of opioids for several players, and that he recklessly gave Skaggs a pill containing the lethal synthetic drug fentanyl, causing his death. During her opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Beran said Kay was also the only person who could have given Skaggs medication, and evidence will show that Kay provided him with pills shortly before his death. .

“Eric Kay and Tyler Skaggs weren’t ‘outside of work’ friends,” she said. “Eric Kay was Tyler Skaggs’ drug dealer. It was their relationship.”

Before the end of the day, the government introduced its first witness, former Angels and current Dodgers pitcher Andrew Heaney, who outlined typical travel procedures for a road trip, as well as descriptions of who had access. to players at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. He also discussed the increasingly frantic messages that Skaggs’ wife, Carli, sent Heaney and his wife on July 1, 2019, because she was unable to reach Skaggs before his body was discovered in his team’s hotel room. (Carli Skaggs is also expected to testify as a government witness.) When asked if he knew Skaggs was an opioid user, Heaney said “no.” The hearing was adjourned before the defense can begin cross-examination, which it will do on Wednesday morning.

Kay repeated his ‘not guilty’ plea when arraigned before the jury and watched the day’s events with little reaction as his sister, mother and four of his friends watched from the gallery.

The defense case boils down to three key arguments: first, that there is no way to prove that the oxycodone or fentanyl in Skaggs’ system killed him – he did not die of an overdose; he suffocated on his vomit. He had also ingested grain alcohol that night. Second, even if the pills caused Skaggs’ death, there is no way to prove that Kay gave him the pills in question. And third, even though Kay provided Skaggs with the pills he took the day he died, there’s no way to prove the transaction took place in Texas.

A crucial point the defense will grapple with is the government’s claim that “if not for the fentanyl” in Skaggs’ system, he wouldn’t have died. This discovery was not included in the original autopsy report, which ruled that Skaggs’ death was accidental. When the government charged Kay last year, it said the decision was made later, but did not give details.

Prosecutors also signaled they were ready for a defense team attack on the man who performed the autopsy, former Tarrant County Medical Examiner Marc Krouse. Krouse was fired last year after an investigation found he had made significant mistakes during other autopsies. There were no accusations that he made any mistakes when examining Skaggs.

At the voir dire, the process by which attorneys question potential jurors, and in the opening statement, the government was careful to point out that autopsy and toxicology reports are separate and distinct procedures. Krouse wrote up the autopsy report, but a toxicologist determined what was in Skaggs’ system when he died.

After the jury dismissal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin asked the judge to limit the defense’s ability to prosecute Krouse, but Judge Terry R. Means said the defense would be able to challenge Krouse’s abilities. as an expert witness if necessary.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.