Prosecutors played a tape of a jailhouse phone conversation in which Kay, 48, said of Skaggs: “I hope people realize what a piece of s— he was. … Well, he’s dead, so f— him.”
Means said he was afraid to sentence Kay, who was convicted of drug distribution resulting in death, because he felt mandatory minimums were “excessive.” But the judge said the prison conversations showed “a refusal to accept responsibility and even to repent for something you have caused.”
In his own remarks, Kay apologized for “spewing vitriol” about Skaggs, prosecutors and the jury, in that and other prison correspondence.
“I wanted to blame Tyler for all of this,” Kay said, calling his words “so wrong and mean.”
The emotional sentencing hearing marked a somber end to this phase of a legal saga that began when Skaggs, 27, was found dead in a Southlake, Tex., hotel room on July 1, 2019, with oxycodone and fentanyl in his system. Kay has indicated that he will appeal his conviction.
Kay was, like Skaggs, a user of illegal opioids. While Kay’s trial in Februarywitnesses including several Major League Baseball players said he shared black market pain pills with them, although the government did not suggest he did so for profit.
Federal prosecutor Erinn Martin stated that Kay was in Skaggs’ hotel room when he choked on his own vomit — a dispute based on key card evidence — and that he also did not try to save the pitcher because “he freaked out and decided to save. himself and his job,” or because he himself was incapacitated.
Martin said Tuesday that Kay knew the drugs he gave Skaggs were “probably or possibly fake” and could contain fentanyl.
Kay, who did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial, did not directly address the government’s version of events Tuesday but expressed remorse for his actions, blaming his addiction.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my days on the mend,” Kay said during remarks in which he sobbed at times.
Skaggs’ family members said Kay was responsible for the pitcher’s death in their own remarks in court Tuesday.
“Eric Kay knew that the drugs he gave to my son and other players [were] laced with fentanyl,” Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, said, adding that “a stiff sentence … has the power to deter people from providing deadly drugs to others.”
“I feel strongly that those who put the lives of others at risk with deadly drugs should be held accountable,” said Skaggs’ widow, Carli. “If anything good can come out of Tyler’s death and this lawsuit, it will prevent someone else’s wife from getting the call I did.”
“I know no matter how much time Eric Kay gets, it won’t bring Tyler back,” Skaggs’ father Darrell said in a statement read in court by Tyler’s aunt. “But the longer he’s incarcerated, the safer everyone is.”
Kay, who was raised upper middle class in Southern California and educated at Pepperdine University before rising to his six-figure job with the Angels, had no prior criminal record. But Martin, the prosecutor, said Kay’s prison correspondence was evidence he had not learned his lesson.
In emails and phone calls, Kay called the “trash-ass Skaggs family,” derided the jurors as “rednecks” with missing teeth, and referred to the “terrible makeup” of a federal prosecutor. Martin also noted that Kay was allegedly caught with subboxone while in prison.
“That type of person offends again,” Martin said. “Eric Kay will not stop.”
Kay’s attorney, Cody Cofer, said his client’s prison remarks reflected the anger of a man coming to terms with being separated from his family for two decades. “The notion that he’s likely to reoffend is just not supported,” Cofer said.
Means said Kay should be jailed near his California home, where he has three sons, the youngest of whom is 12 years old. Kay’s middle child, 20-year-old Carter, said during the sentencing hearing that his father “wouldn’t do anything bad willingly,” and urged the judge to be lenient.
“My little brother needs him the most,” Carter Kay said. “I haven’t seen him smile in a long time.”
Skaggs’ family has filed a lawsuit against Kay and the Angelsclaiming that the team “knew or should have known” that Kay was a drug user, and that putting him in close proximity to athletes playing through injuries created a “perfect storm” leading to the pitcher’s death.
The family is represented by Texas attorney Rusty Hardin. “Today’s sentence is not about the number of years the defendant received,” a family spokesman said after the verdict. “The real issue in this case is holding accountable the people who distribute the deadly drug fentanyl.”
The angels denied the accusations in the trial of the family. An Angels spokesman said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that “our sympathies go out to the Skaggs family on this difficult day.”
Since Kay’s trial, one of his lawyers, Reagan Wynn, has been suspended from practicing law after a Texas bar panel found he “failed to explain” to another client the facts of his criminal case.. At a May hearing in Kay’s case, his other attorney at the time, Michael Molfetta, appeared to berate Wynn for leaving Kay without representation during a meeting with parole officials before his sentencing.
“I was always part of a group email with probation, and I unfairly — and it’s on me — just assumed that Reagan handled it,” Molfetta told a judge. “I would text Mr. Wynn and say, ‘Hey, did you get this?’ And for the duration of our representation, he doesn’t seem to like texts because he never really got back to me.”
Molfetta also later dropped the case. In an interview with The Washington Post, Sandra Kay said her son received a poor legal defense.
“Tyler Skaggs was a grown male who willingly chose to engage in dangerous behavior that ended in his death,” Sandra Kay said. “And to hold someone else accountable for that is a great injustice.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.