The Angels employee who reportedly provided opioids to Tyler Skaggs issued a statement Sunday saying that cooperating with federal authorities was “the right thing to do” and that “it’s time for everybody to stand up and take responsibility for their respective roles” in the pitcher’s drug-related death.
“Nothing anyone does will ever provide closure for the Skaggs family,” Eric Kay, who has worked in the team’s media relations department for 24 years, said in a statement issued by his attorney, Michael Molfetta of Newport Beach.
“I can’t, the Angels can’t, and the courts can’t, regardless of what happens there. But at least I can help them ‘know’ instead of ‘wonder.’ My hope is that there is some peace in that for them.”
Skaggs, 27, had the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone in his system along with alcohol when he was found dead in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room July 1 during an Angels trip to play the Rangers.
ESPN reported Saturday that Kay told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents that he provided oxycodone to Skaggs and abused it with him for years and that Kay was in the hotel room when Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him.
Kay, who is currently in outpatient treatment for his own opioid addiction, told investigators that he did not partake in the drugs with the player because he was on a medication that would have negated the effects.
Kay reportedly said two Angels officials — later identified as Tim Mead, the team’s former vice president of communications, and traveling secretary Tom Taylor — were told about Skaggs’ drug use long before his death.
Mead and Taylor both denied those claims Saturday, and team president John Carpino issued a statement that said, “We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics.”
Kay gave federal agents the names of five other players who he believed used opiates while they were Angels. Asked Sunday whether they were current or former players, Molfetta said, “It’s a combination.”
Molfetta was retained by Kay almost two months ago out of a concern that Kay might be made a “scapegoat” in the investigation into Skaggs’ death.
Agents learned about the oxycodone transactions between Kay and Skaggs after reviewing text messages between the two, ESPN reported, citing sources. Kay’s wife, Camela, and his mother, Sandy, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program that a series of Venmo transactions ranging from $150 to $600 between Skaggs and Kay were for drugs.
According to ESPN, Kay told investigators that he illegally obtained six oxycodone pills and gave three to Skaggs several days before the team left California for Texas. Skaggs texted Kay the day the team left seeking more oxycodone, a request Kay told investigators he was unable to fulfill.
“Legally speaking, you look at the Texas investigation, and anything my client did took place in California,” Molfetta said. “You look at the California investigation, and morally, professionally in terms of their obligations to Major League Baseball, maybe the Angels did something wrong.
“But I don’t see how legally they did anything wrong from a criminal perspective. Civil liability is a different animal altogether.”
Attorneys have said that tens of millions of dollars could be at stake in a potential wrongful-death lawsuit if attorneys can prove a party besides Skaggs might be at least partially responsible for his death. Skaggs was under contract for $3.7 million in 2019 and would have had one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2021. He was 7-7 with a 4.29 ERA in 15 starts in 2019 and had a career record of 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA in 96 starts.
“A guy gives someone pills two days before a trip, proving that person was a heavy user … it doesn’t defy credulity to think those pills were gone long before that plane left Orange County,” Molfetta said. “And those pills weren’t enough to get Tyler into the state he was in. Was it contributing? I don’t know. But was it the cause? I don’t think you can say that.”
Molfetta said Kay, 45, was approached by federal authorities in mid-September and that Kay volunteered to cooperate. Kay was not subpoenaed. Molfetta said he has not been told whether Kay is a subject, witness or target of the investigation. Typically, the federal government is more likely to prosecute drug dealers than users.
“Watching and reading the sordid details of my own weaknesses unfold on the national stage has been nothing short of horrible,” Kay said in his statement. “However, I am aware and respectful of the fact that my pain is entirely insignificant compared to the pain that the Skaggs’ family is feeling and will continue to feel for the rest of their lives.
“I made the decision to cooperate with law enforcement because I felt that it was the right thing to do. That is all I can do from this point on. If it comes with public shame and derision, I accept that.”