The Sports Report: Eric Kay is found guilty

Former Los Angeles Angels employee Eric Kay, left, walks out of federal court  in Fort Worth, Texas
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Eric Kay trial: A former Angels communications director was found guilty Thursday of distributing fentanyl and giving Tyler Skaggs the drugs that caused the Angels pitcher’s death in a suburban Dallas hotel room in 2019, concluding a trial that yanked Major League Baseball to the center of the national opioid crisis.


Eric Kay, 47, faces 20 years to life in a federal prison and up to a $1-million fine. His sentencing is scheduled for June 28.

The 12-person jury listened to closing arguments in U.S. District Court on Thursday morning before reaching a verdict after less than 90 minutes of deliberation. In addition to finding Skaggs guilty of committing the crimes in Texas, the jury agreed with the government that “but for” the fentanyl, Skaggs wouldn’t have died.

With Kay convicted, the attention will shift to the civil lawsuits the Skaggs family has filed against the Angels in Texas and California.

“We are very grateful to the government and the jury for seeing this important case through to the right verdict,” the Skaggs family said in a statement. “Tyler was the light of our family. He is gone, and nothing can ever bring him back. We are relieved that justice was served, although today is a painful reminder of the worst day in the life of our family.”

Kay’s demeanor did not shift when Judge Terry R. Means read the verdict. His hands were folded on the table in front of him. He remained stoic. His family and friends in the gallery appeared to be in shock. Skaggs’ mother, Debbie Hetman, slumped and cried. She and Skaggs’ wife, Carli, later hugged and cried together, rejoicing just feet away.

Moments later, Kay spoke in court for the first time since pleading not guilty last week. His emotions did not waver.

“I’m sorry, but I have to order you taken into custody,” Means said.

“I understand, your honor,” Kay said.

U.S. marshals asked Kay to take off his suit jacket and tie, and remove all items from his pockets. One official asked him what something was. Antidepressants, Kay answered. One of Kay’s attorneys gave his mother, Sandy, his belongings as he was handcuffed. His sister, Kelly, left the courtroom in tears once her brother was escorted out.

“We thought there were many reasons to doubt the government’s case,” said Reagan Wynn, one of Kay’s two attorneys. “This is a tragedy all the way around. Eric Kay is getting ready to do a minimum 20 years in federal penitentiary, and it goes up from there. And Tyler Skaggs is gone. It’s a tragedy. There’s no winners in any of this. It’s a sad day.”


Eric Kay verdict is the start of a long, sad road for Angels, MLB and Skaggs family

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From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: When some competitors barely cleared the top of the halfpipe on late-run tricks, Chinese star Eileen Gu continued to soar. Camera operators bent backward to track the teenager’s motion through the air as she climbed higher and higher just as she has for the last two weeks.

Gu reached a new level Friday, becoming the first freestyle skier to win three medals in the same Olympics. After gold and silver in slopestyle and big air, respectively, she dominated the women’s halfpipe final at Genting Snow Park. Gu recorded the two highest scores of the competition, including a gold-medal-winning 95.25 on her second attempt, before taking a teary-eyed victory lap.

Canadians Cassie Sharp and Rachael Karker took silver and bronze, respectively. American Hanna Faulhaber finished sixth in her first Olympics while Brita Sigourney and Carly Margulies finished 10th and 11th.

Fans who had been limited to just one section of the stands at Genting Snow Park braved blistering winds Friday and spilled over to fill more than two-thirds of the viewing area. Olympic volunteers arrived en masse to catch a glimpse of freeskiing’s golden girl. A group of fans held signs that read in Chinese, “Go Gu Ailing.”


From Nathan Fenno: The final obstacle between Mikaela Shiffrin and a medal was the plunging slalom course called the Ice River.

After two weeks of hype and heartbreak at the Winter Olympics, all the world’s most dominant female skier needed was a clean run through the 63 gates to earn a spot on the podium in the combined.

But as the sun fought to break through snow flurries that dusted the Yanqing National Alpine Centre on Thursday, Shiffrin’s inexplicable Olympics took another inexplicable turn in her fifth and final individual event.

One of her skis clipped a gate seconds into the race and sent her crashing into the snow as disbelieving gasps filled the finish area from people watching the giant video board.

The race — and her last chance to win an individual medal — ended in a staggering instant as she didn’t finish a race for the third time at these Games.

“Come on, how many times have I [not finished] in my whole career?” Shiffrin asked rhetorically. “Of course, she’s at least going to make it to the finish. This could just be the medal that salvages everything after all. Right now I just feel like a joke.”

The harsh words underscored the painful, unexpected journey over the last 10 days.


From David Wharton: Maybe the pressure was too much for a teenager — even a precociously talented teen such as Kamila Valieva.

The 15-year-old Russian figure skater, embroiled in doping accusations all week at these Beijing Olympics, faltered in the women’s free skate final on Thursday night, tumbling from the lead and finishing in fourth place.

Fellow Russian Anna Shcherbakova took advantage of Valieva’s stumbles, rising from second place to capture gold at Capital Indoor Stadium on Thursday night.

Alexandra Trusova, also of the Russian Olympic Committee, won silver and Kaori Skamoto of Japan took bronze.


From Helene Elliott: International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach decried the “coldness” with which embattled Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was greeted by her entourage after she performed a mistake-filled free skate program that dropped her from first to fourth in the women’s singles competition on Thursday and said he was “very, very disturbed” while watching her performance and the immediate aftermath on TV.

Valieva tested positive for a banned substance on Dec. 25 but was allowed to compete because the results of that test were not delivered until a day after she helped lead the Russian Olympic Committee to a gold medal in the team event. She was suspended for one day by the Russian Anti-Doping Federation. The IOC and other organizations were rebuffed by the Court of Arbitration for Sports when they requested that her suspension be reinstated.

Valieva, 15, was the favorite to win the gold medal and led after the short program but she stumbled several times on Thursday. After she left the ice cameras and recording equipment picked up her coach, Eteri Tutberizde, asking her, “Why did you let go?” in implying Valieva had lost focus after she was unable to land her second jump, a triple axel. “Explain it to me, why. Why did you stop fighting? You let go after that axel. Why?”


The British have clinched their first medal of the Beijing Games, thanks to Bruce Mouat and the men’s curling team.

Four Scottish lads beat the defending Olympic champion U.S. 8-4 in the semifinals Thursday night to clinch no worse than a silver medal and earn the right to play Sweden for the gold.

Although Scotland is curling’s birthplace and the sport remains a national passion, the British have not won the men’s gold — and have just two medals of any color — since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998.

“It’ll be some party back home if we do,” British lead Hammy McMillan said. ”It would mean the absolute world to everyone if we do.“

The Swedes topped Canada 5-3 in the other semifinal at the Ice Cube curling venue. Skip Niklas Edin will have a chance to complete his set of Olympic medals, having won bronze in Sochi and a silver in Pyeongchang.


Beijing Olympics live: Latest news and results from the 24th Winter Games


From Andrew Greif: Wearing a sly smile and an Ivica Zubac jersey over his cream sweatshirt that draped well past his waist, Patrick Beverley walked to his sideline seat Thursday inside Arena.

The smile was the face of a man who’d pulled a surprise. Beverley said he had not told his former Clippers teammates that he would be in attendance, one night after his Minnesota Timberwolves played their final game before the NBA’s all-star break. The jersey reflected a bond that began three years earlier between the fiery Chicago guard and a 7-footer from a small town on the Croatia-Bosnia & Herzegovina border.

As he did when he wore a Clippers jersey, and shorts, too, Beverley quickly drew attention. When Zubac scored on a deft turnaround on the opening possession, Beverley shot out of his chair and clapped while looking like a proud older brother. Clippers guard Reggie Jackson chatted up his former teammate during the earliest breaks in play. Team owner Steve Ballmer, who earlier this month shared a Timberwolves tweet asking for retweets “if you love @patbev21,” drifted over for a conversation between the first and second quarters.

The timing of Beverley’s surprise visit was impeccable. Facing one of the lowliest teams in the league, in the last game standing between this weary Clippers roster and the all-star break they cannot wait to begin, was the exact recipe for a letdown that the Clippers could not afford with a postseason berth hardly guaranteed with 21 games remaining. In other words, it was the kind of circumstance where Beverley’s no-off-switch intensity was particularly valuable during his four seasons with the team.

Beverley “was a big part of this culture,” Terance Mann said. “Just seeing him there meant a lot for us. Even though we’re in the race in the playoffs [with Minnesota] it’s pretty cool.”

The Clippers, however, needed no outside energy in a 142-111 runaway in which they set a season-high for points. Two days before competing in the NBA’s three-point contest in Cleveland, guard Luke Kennard was afforded plenty of extra practice while making eight of nine three-pointers, one make away from tying a franchise record shared by Caron Butler, in 2012, and J.J. Redick, in 2016.


From Dan Woike: Anthony Davis suffered a mid-foot sprain Wednesday against Utah, testing revealed, sidelining him for at least the next four weeks.

The Lakers said Davis underwent a MRI on Thursday after X-rays were negative Wednesday, and he’ll be re-evaluated by team doctors in four weeks.

If Davis were to return from the injury in four weeks, he’ll have missed the Lakers first 11 games after the All-Star break.


From Kevin Baxter: Christen Press wasn’t in uniform when the women’s national team opened play in the SheBelieves Cup at Dignity Health Sports Park. Ditto Alex Morgan.

There was no sign of Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath or Carli Lloyd either. And while that might sound like no big deal, it meant Thursday’s game with the Czech Republic was the first major tournament match the U.S. has played without at least one of its Fab Five forwards since 2007.

The absences were felt, with their tentative young replacements taking 18 shots, putting eight on them goal, but failing to get any past Czech goalkeeper Barbora Votíková in settling for a scoreless draw. That’s not the start coach Vlatko Andonovski wanted for what could be the national team’s most thorough overhaul in more than a decade.


From Gary Klein: On the day former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was set to be announced as the new coach of the Minnesota Vikings, three other members of the Rams staff are on the move.

On Thursday, the Denver Broncos announced that Ejiro Evero had been hired as defensive coordinator, Dwayne Stukes as special team coordinator and Marcus Dixon as defensive line coach.

Evero, 41, had been on Rams coach Sean McVay’s staff since 2017. He coached safeties for four seasons and took over the entire secondary in 2021. Evero replaces Ed Donatell, who joined O’Connell’s Vikings staff.

Stukes, 45, joined the Rams’ staff before last season as a special teams assistant under coordinator Joe DeCamillis.


From Ben Bolch: The band was back together again inside Pauley Pavilion. Literally. It was the first time UCLA’s band had played during a basketball game since fans were allowed back inside the building late last month.

What the Bruins unveiled on the court was something less than a full ensemble.

Point guard Tyger Campbell was out because of an unspecified violation of team rules, complicating UCLA’s efforts to shake off a late-season slump in which it had lost three of four games.

Jules Bernard took over primary ballhandling duties against Washington State on Thursday night and it didn’t go well in the opening minutes. His first pass was nearly stolen before getting knocked out of bounds. Shortly thereafter, he had a pass stolen in the backcourt and was benched in favor of David Singleton.

Turnovers were a troublesome theme for the Bruins.

They had nine by halftime, matching their season average for a game, and were struggling just to stay ahead of the Cougars early in the second half after Johnny Juzang flung a cross-court pass out of bounds.

But the murmurs of unease quickly turned into sustained cheers during a 15-1 run that powered No. 13 UCLA to a 76-56 victory.


From Ryan Kartje: The paint was clogged, a sea of knees and elbows flailing in the center of Washington’s zone, but Chevez Goodwin was undeterred. USC’s 6-10 senior forward stood at the heart of the action, vacuuming up anything in his vicinity, slinging baby hooks and slamming down dunks off handoffs, discombobulating a defense that was designed to discombobulate USC, a team that sometimes struggled with its consistency from the perimeter.

But nothing could get the Trojans off track Thursday in an 79-69 win over Washington, not while it was still soaring from its weekend romp over UCLA, not with their eyes now set on March and the top of the conference.

In that sense, Washington represented an important test for a USC team that’s too often been prone to letdowns. With just six games remaining in the regular season, time is running out for USC to find its consistency. But on Thursday, the tell-tale signs of a letdown were nowhere to be found.

There was no painfully slow start and no late slump. Even as USC’s leading scorer, Isaiah Mobley, was quiet in its return, the rest of the Trojans offense had little trouble finding their rhythm. Instead of a letdown, USC proceeded to kick the door down.

That overwhelming effort started with Goodwin in the paint, piling up early post points at will. With USC’s shooters slow to start as its offense adjusted to Washington’s zone, Goodwin was content to carry the load early, and the Huskies struggled to stop him, in spite of their own size on the interior..


Leon Draisaitl scored twice and the Edmonton Oilers routed the Ducks 7-3 to remain unbeaten under new head coach Jay Woodcroft.

Evander Kane, Derek Ryan, Jesse Puljujarvi, Warren Foegele and Zach Hyman also scored for the Oilers, who are 9-1-2 in their last 12 outings and 4-0 under Woodcroft.

Mike Smith made 27 saves. Connor McDavid and Ryan McLeod each chipped in a pair of assists.

Adam Henrique, Sonny Milano and Trevor Zegras scored for the Ducks, who have lost four in a row. John Gibson allowed seven goals on 41 shots.


From Mike DiGiovanna: Jordan Spieth’s tee shot hooked far left of the 17th fairway at Riviera Country Club on Thursday, his ball nestled in the thick kikuyu grass and two huge Eucalyptus trees blocking his path to the green.

With 324 yards to the pin on the 590-yard, par-five hole, Spieth tried to curl his next shot onto the fairway and toward the green. He did not succeed, his ball finding the rough to the right of the fairway and still 140 yards short of the hole.

“No, turn, sit down!” Spieth, who started the opening round of the Genesis Invitational on the 10th tee, yelled after striking his second shot on 17. “I just could not have played this hole worse!”

Two shots later — a beautiful 142-yard approach to within 11 feet of the hole and a steely midrange putt for birdie — Spieth was out of trouble and on his way to a five-under-par 66, a strong first round that put the Dallas native and three-time major champion in a four-way tie for second place.

Joaquin Niemann, a rail-thin 23-year-old from Chile who has one PGA Tour win, scorched the iconic Pacific Palisades course with an eight-under 63 in the afternoon session, tying him with eight others for the lowest opening-round score in Riviera history.


From Ben Bolch: UCLA coach Chip Kelly has moved from one longtime friend to another at defensive coordinator, hiring veteran assistant Bill McGovern to replace Jerry Azzinaro.

The parallels between McGovern and his predecessor are striking. Both came to UCLA late in their careers. Both have known Kelly for decades. Both experienced gaps of at least a decade between roles as defensive coordinators.

McGovern, who will turn 60 on New Year’s Eve, most recently held that title from 2009 to 2012 while at Boston College. His Eagles rose from No. 26 nationally in total defense during his first season to No. 13 in 2010 before taking a tumble, ranking No. 70 in 2011 and No. 100 in 2012.

After working last season as the inside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears, McGovern needed a job after being part of the staff let go in January when the Bears fired coach Matt Nagy.


1924 — Theresa Weld Blanchard wins her sixth and final U.S. figure skating championship. Sherwin Badger captures his fifth straight and final men’s title.

1928 — Sonja Henie, 15, becomes the youngest Olympic figure skating champion. She easily beats Fritzi Burger of Austria and Beatrix Loughran of the U.S.

1932 — Sonja Henie wins her sixth straight world title.

1951 — Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan orders the arrest of three City College basketball players on bribery charges and two professional gamblers and two intermediaries in a game-fixing scandal involving college teams across the country.

1961 — Bob Pettit of St. Louis scores a career-high 57 points in a 141-138 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

1964 — Wilt Chamberlain scores 52 points against Detroit, his second consecutive 50-point game.

1972 — Randy Smith of Buffalo plays the first of what would become 906 consecutive games, an NBA record which took more than 11 full seasons to accomplish.

1981 — Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky scores five goals and adds two assists to lead the Oilers over the St. Louis Blues 9-2.

1986 — San Antonio’s Alvin Robertson records the second quadruple-double in NBA history, with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in the Spurs’ 120-114 win over Phoenix.

1990 — Dale Earnhardt blows a tire with one mile remaining in the Daytona 500, giving Derrike Cope the biggest upset in stock car racing history.

1992 — Italy’s Alberto Tomba wins the giant slalom in Albertville, France, to become the first Alpine skier to win the same event at two Winter Olympics.

1995 — Utah guard John Stockton becomes the first NBA player with 10,000 assists in a 108-98 victory over the Boston Celtics.

2001 — Dale Earnhardt, the greatest stock car star of his era, is killed in a crash on the last turn of the last lap of the Daytona 500 as he tries to protect Michael Waltrip’s victory.

2006 — Shani Davis becomes the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal in the Winter Olympics, capturing the 1,000-meter speedskating race. Joey Cheek makes it a 1-2 American finish, adding a silver to his victory in the 500 at the Turin Games.

2010 — Evan Lysacek becomes the first U.S. man to win the Olympic gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988, shocking everyone with an upset of defending champion Evgeni Plushenko.

2012 — Shenneika Smith’s 3-pointer from the wing with 8 seconds left lifts St. John’s to a 57-56 win over No. 2 Connecticut, ending the Huskies’ 99-game home court winning streak. It’s the Huskies’ first home loss to an unranked opponent in nearly 19 years.

2013 — Brittney Griner scores 25 points, including the 3,000th of her career, to help No. 1 Baylor rally past third-ranked Connecticut 76-70.

2017 — Mikaela Shiffrin wins a third straight slalom title at the world championships to retain her unbeaten record at major events.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Shani Davis wins gold in 2006. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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