TimesOC: Trial could lead to answers on death of Tyler Skaggs

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, Feb. 4. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

It’s been more than two years since the overdose death of former Angels player Tyler Skaggs rocked Major League Baseball.

In the aftermath, a case has been built against the team’s ex-communications director Eric Kay for allegedly supplying Skaggs with the drug that caused his death. Kay has pleaded not guilty to charges of distributing the drug and conspiring to “possess with the intent to distribute” fentanyl and oxycodone.

Following several delays, Kay’s trial is set to begin next week. This week, reporter Nathan Fenno wrote that seven former Angels could be summoned to the witness stand in the trial. Ex-Angels Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron, Matt Harvey, Andrew Heaney, Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Garrett Richards are among the 77 potential witnesses. The names were included in a list filed Thursday in federal court.

Fenno also reported that several current and former front-office employees from the Angels are also on the list, including former vice president of communications Tim Mead, traveling secretary Tom Taylor and communications director Adam Chodzko.

A photo of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs and his wife, Carli, is displayed outside St. Monica Catholic Church.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Skaggs was found dead in a hotel room in Southlake, Texas, on July 1, 2019. At the scene, police found a counterfeit 30-milligram oxycodone tablet containing fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has led to many overdose deaths across the country. A coroner determined that the 27-year-old choked on his vomit after ingesting a mix of “ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication.”

Prosecutors contend that Kay has been distributing “controlled substances” to players since at least 2017, Fenno wrote.

“The government anticipates presenting testimony of approximately five players who received oxycodone from Kay in 2017, 2018, and/or 2019,” prosecutors said in a previous motion. “The evidence will also demonstrate that Kay often coordinated the distribution through text messages or through conversations involving the victim, [Skaggs].”

Body camera footage shows the moment Luis Manuel Garcia was fatally shot by Tustin police.
(Tustin Police Department)


In August, a homeless man possibly suffering from a mental health episode was shot and killed by a Tustin police officer. The family of Luis Manuel Garcia recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the officers involved in the incident used excessive force. The lawsuit contends that the officer who fired the fatal shots escalated the situation, which led to Garcia getting tased and shot to death.

Newport Beach police this week arrested a Los Angeles man after a standoff on suspicion of assault and burglary. The home reportedly belongs to former “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Elizabeth Vargas, though police did not confirm that to my colleague Lilly Nguyen.

My colleague Gabriel San Román sifted through public records to analyze a massive COVID-19 outbreak in a Yorba Linda school. San Román laid out how despite safety protocols, the virus spread through the school, causing administrators to quarantine the entire sixth-grade class a week before winter break.

Last year, more homeless people died than any other year in Orange County history. Many of those deaths were due to drug overdoses involving the dangerous synthetic drug fentanyl. A harm reduction clinic in Santa Ana has saved more than 3,000 lives in the last two years due to distributing a lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug to homeless people. Yet, the business had to close down because the city revoked its occupancy permit. The clinic’s leaders contend that homeless people will die if they remain closed. They are appealing the decision.

A Fullerton club last year became the site of many protests against rape culture after a woman claimed she was drugged at the nightclub and later raped. Other women came forward with similar stories. In the aftermath, the nightclub owner filed lawsuits against the alleged rape victim and her supporters, as well as the city and police department.

A Huntington Beach man was arrested on suspicion of murder for allegedly performing dangerous stunts on his motorcycle, leading to the death of a woman who was riding on it. The crash happened in September, but the man was arrested this week while recovering in a hospital from the injuries he sustained during the incident.

Costa Mesa officials decided this week that any major building projects must primarily use unionized laborers. The five-year agreement includes about $80 million in major building projects being considered by the city. “This is a good approach at a collaborative effort between our city, the trades and schools … to really create and reinforce a pipeline to skilled jobs and high wages,” Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds said.

Following the brutal winter surge of COVID-19 cases, things are finally starting to stabilize. However, health officials are urging Orange County residents to continue following safety precautions due to the emergence of a sublineage of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, BA.2. The lineage has not been found in Orange County yet, but Los Angeles County found four cases last week. “As you’ve been hearing ... the Omicron variant as well as the sublineage are highly transmissible so if the concern for the individual who is high risk or is concerned they are going to get COVID, probably hold out a little longer if you can,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy county health officer, said Wednesday.

Most Rev. Thanh Thai Nguyen, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, at the Vietnamese Catholic Center.
Most Rev. Thanh Thai Nguyen, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, gestures to a parishioner at the Vietnamese Catholic Center on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / TimesOC)


Orange County’s Vietnamese Catholic community celebrated Lunar New Year this week at a mass at the Vietnamese Catholic Center in Santa Ana. My colleague Sarah Mosqueda also wrote that another mass and special New Year’s blessing will be held on Saturday at Our Lady of La Vang Shrine on the Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove. “The past year we were confronted with COVID and the worries and anxieties and so on and so forth, so we need peace,” said the Most Rev. Thanh Thai Nguyen, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange. “That is what we need for the whole year, and that is what I would pray for the Vietnamese community and for all people. To have peace throughout the year. ”

Nailing It For America held a Vietnamese Tết celebration in Little Saigon this week in hopes of marking an end to Asian hate in Orange County. Over the last year, Asian hate incidents have increased as the COVID-19 pandemic spurred an onslaught of anti-Asian sentiments. Nailing It For America is a local organization that has provided $30 million worth of PPE and more than 80,000 restaurant meals to healthcare professionals. It has also advocated to raise awareness of anti-Asian hate.

What if chain restaurant food was actually good? That’s a question that “The Office” actor and writer B.J. Novak decided to try and answer with the creation of Chain, a pop-up chain-themed restaurant that was recently in Anaheim.

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 31: Fans enter Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Opening Day.
Fans enter Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
(Getty Images)


An appeals court ruled this week that Bubba Harkins, the Angels’ former longtime visiting clubhouse manager, will be able to move forward with a lawsuit against the team and Major League Baseball. Harkins was fired in March 2020 after the team found out that he was providing sticky substances to visiting pitchers to help them grip the baseball. Reporter Mike Digiovanna wrote that Harkins was made into a “public scapegoat” as the league took aim at getting rid of the use of foreign substances.

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