Defense of Eric Kay: Fentanyl is not the only cause of death of Tyler Skaggs

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Eric Kay’s defense attempted on Thursday to discredit the government’s claim that Tyler Skaggs’ ingestion of fentanyl – and nothing else found in his system – was the reason he choked on his vomit and died in a suburban Dallas hotel room in July 2019.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Reagan Wynn asked Dr. Marc Krouse, a former Tarrant County medical examiner who wrote Skaggs’ autopsy report, if he could say Skaggs would be alive. if he wasn’t taking fentanyl. Krouse said there was a “greater probability” that Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher, was not dead based on the evidence, but “no scientist” could be 100% sure.

According to the autopsy report, which ruled the death accidental, Skaggs had fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system when he was found dead in room 469 of the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square on July 1, 2019, a few hours before the angels. were to start a series against the Texas Rangers.

Krouse was fired last March after an audit found he had made significant errors in other autopsies – a development Wynn resurfaced to conclude cross-examination – but he has not been charged. errors when reviewing Skaggs.

Kay, a former Angels communications director, has been charged with two felony counts – supplying Skaggs with counterfeit fentanyl-containing pills that led to his death and distributing fentanyl and oxycodone for at least 2017. Kay, 47, pleaded not guilty.

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic drug that has ignited the opioid epidemic in the United States in recent years. The drug, estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, was linked to 64% of drug overdose deaths nationwide between May 2020 and April 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kay would face a minimum 20-year sentence if convicted of supplying Skaggs with the drugs that led to his death. The prosecution must convince the jury that not only did Kay supply Skaggs with the deadly drugs, but that he gave them to Skaggs in Texas and not California. The defense admitted Kay was a drug addict and used drugs with the pitcher, but attorneys say there’s no evidence Kay gave the drugs to Skaggs in Texas.

Federal prosecutors don’t have to prove that Kay knew the drugs he was supplying were laced with fentanyl, however.

“If you’re dispensing a controlled substance — and non-prescription oxy is a controlled substance — you don’t need to know what the actual substance is,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor with no connection to the case, said Thursday. . “So if I’m selling oxy and it’s actually fentanyl, or if it’s a combination of the two, it doesn’t matter as long as I know I’m distributing a controlled substance.”

Skaggs’ phone — the data extracted from it, his chain of custody and whether the messages were deleted — also took center stage during the trial on Thursday.

Southlake Police Department Corporal. Delaney Green, a detective at the time of Skaggs’ death, testified that Kay initially did not tell investigators he saw Skaggs the night he died – a point Wynn conceded during his opening statement on Tuesday. Wynn called it “the dumbest thing [Kay] did.” He said Kay lied because he wanted to hide his secret life as a drug addict.

Green said she learned that Kay only saw Skaggs after Adam Chodzko, another Angels communications employee, told police. Green said Kay then became a person of interest. Text messages between Skaggs and Kay found in Skaggs’ phone and presented Thursday indicated that Skaggs had invited Kay to his room and that Kay had agreed to leave on the night of June 30.

The suggestion to delete messages from Skaggs’ phone first came up on Wednesday when Michael Molfetta, Kay’s other defense attorney, asked Skaggs’ mother, Debbie Hetman, if she knew her step- son, Garet Ramos, had deleted text messages from the phone. It was the first public accusation of its kind.

Hetman testified that she and her family, including Skaggs’ wife, Carli, went to the Southlake Police Department after Skaggs’ death to retrieve his belongings. While there, she said, the police asked if they could help unlock the phone. Hetman said she was able to guess the password. She said Ramos then picked up the phone to change the password, but she said she was unaware that Ramos was deleting texts.

Green’s testimony corroborated that Hetman and Ramos handled the phone. She said another officer in the room was standing directly behind the family observing while they were in possession of the phone. Green said the family left without the phone, but without giving investigators consent to use it as evidence. The family eventually consented, allowing Green to search for the phone.

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