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Judge denies new trial for Eric Kay in Tyler Skaggs’ death

Former Angels employee Eric Kay walks out of federal court Feb. 22 in Fort Worth
Former Angels employee Eric Kay walks out of federal court Feb. 22 in Fort Worth.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)
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A federal judge in Texas rejected Eric Kay’s request for a new trial Tuesday, more than two months after a jury found the former Angels communications director guilty of providing counterfeit oxycodone pills that led to the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

In a one-paragraph order filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Judge Terry R. Means wrote that he was denying Kay’s motion “for the reasons urged by the government.”

After Kay’s legal team filed a motion last month for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, prosecutors said the move had “no reasoned basis” and failed to show “prejudice, let alone the kind of miscarriage of justice that would warrant a new trial.”

“For almost two weeks, the jury heard how Kay dealt drugs to numerous members of the Angels’ organization, how he delivered fentanyl to [Skaggs] at a hotel ... and how that fentanyl killed that young man with his boots still on his feet,” the prosecutors wrote in their response. “All of that evidence supported the jury’s guilty verdict, and it precludes the latest in a long series of maneuvers designed to escape responsibility for his crimes.”

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Prosecutors alleged Kay distributed opioids to at least six Major League Baseball players in addition to Skaggs during a two-year period, lied to police investigating the pitcher’s death, and attempted to obtain opioids through an online auction site, OfferUp, 10 days later.

The jury deliberated less than 90 minutes in mid-February before finding Kay guilty of giving Skaggs counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl that resulted in his death in a Texas hotel room on July 1, 2019, and conspiring since at least 2017 “to possess with the intent to distribute” both opioids.

Kay, who faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, is being held at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 28.

Michael Molfetta, one of Kay’s attorneys, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The defense motion for a new trial argued “there was no evidence from which any rational juror could conclude the Government had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that ‘but for’ the ingestion of a substance delivered by the Defendant, Tyler Skaggs would not have died” and that the judge didn’t properly instruct the jury.

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“Finally, Kay asks for a new trial on the ground that the evidence was too thin to sustain his convictions,” the prosecutors wrote in their response. “That argument defies the reality of numerous witnesses who admitted that Kay was their drug dealer and the strong evidence that Kay delivered the fentanyl to [Skaggs] that would ultimately spell the young pitcher’s demise.”

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