Former Angels public relations staffer Eric Kay was sentenced on Tuesday to 22 years in federal prison for his role in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Kay, 48, was convicted on Feb. 17 by a jury in Fort Worth, Texas, of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.
The minimum sentence was 20 years.
Judge Terry Means told the court that he felt the mandatory minimums were “excessive,” but that he gave Kay more than the minimum because comments he had made in prison showed a “refusal to accept responsibility and even be remorseful for something you caused.”
During the sentencing proceedings, a tape of a jailhouse phone call between Kay and his mother was played. In the call, Kay said of Skaggs: “I hope people realize what a piece of s— he was … Well he’s dead, so f— him.”
Kay also demeaned the Skaggs family.
“All they see are dollar signs,” Kay said in a recorded call. “They may get more money with him dead than if he was playing because he sucked.”
Kay apologized for those comments during his statement to the judge.
“I wanted to blame Tyler for all of this,” Kay said.
Kay’s attorney, Cody Cofer, said in an email that Kay “will immediately file his notice of appeal and continue to fight the allegations. This was a tragic circumstance. Our heart breaks for Tyler Skaggs’s family.”
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Skaggs’ family released a statement following the sentencing.
“We are very grateful to everyone who worked so hard to investigate and prosecute Eric Kay,” the statement said. “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. It is killing tens of thousands of people every year in our country and destroying families along with it. We will continue the fight to hold responsible those who allowed Kay to provide a deadly drug to Tyler. But for their actions, Tyler would still be with us today.”
Skaggs’ widow, Carli, said in court that she hoped this sentence would serve as a deterrent to others.
“I feel strongly that those who risk the lives of others with killer drugs need to be held accountable,” she said. “If anything good can come of Tyler’s death and this trial, it will be preventing someone else’s wife from receiving the call I did.”
The Skaggs family has also filed two wrongful death civil suits against the Angels, one in Texas and one in California. The suit claims that the Angels knew, or should have known, that Kay was providing drugs to Skaggs. The Angels have denied anyone in management knew about their drug use.
Kay has admitted to using opioids with Skaggs and supplying him with the pills over a period of years.
On the night of June 30, 2019, Kay was traveling with the Angels as their PR representative. He visited Skaggs’ hotel room that night, investigators found. The next day, Skaggs was found dead on the bed in his room.
The medical examiner determined months later that Skaggs had a deadly mixture of oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol in his system. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. Drug users are often unaware that the pills they are taking have been laced with fentanyl.
“Today’s sentencing of Eric Kay will not ease the suffering that the Skaggs’ family have experienced since 2019,” said Eduardo A. Chavez, Special Agent in Charge of DEA Dallas. “What the guilty verdict and sentencing proves is even if you sell only a small number of pills and one of those pills causes the death of an individual, you will be held responsible and sentenced to the fullest extent allowed by our judicial system.”