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FORT WORTH, Texas — It was thrown in almost as an aside, part of a cross-examination at the end of an eventful day in court. While questioning a former DEA agent, defense attorney Michael Molfetta asked whether the agent was aware that in 2019, Tyler Skaggs sent Los Angeles Angels teammate Matt Harvey a text asking him to put drugs in his locker because he wanted to pitch “loosey goosey.”
That nugget, and the suggestion that Skaggs pitched in a game while high, made its way into the record of U.S. v. Eric Kay during Monday’s testimony. But it was more of a tease of what is to come Tuesday when Harvey is scheduled to testify. The former All-Star is expected to face blistering questions about his own history of drug use.
Molfetta did not suggest Monday that Harvey gave Skaggs the drugs that contributed to his death. But the defense team wants to establish that Skaggs got opioids from multiple sources for years and might have gotten that July 2019 supply from someone besides Kay, the former Angels communications director who is on trial for Skaggs’ death.
The revelation about Harvey came on what was by far the most eventful day of the week-old trial. Earlier, the jury heard from a friend of Skaggs’ named Chris Leanos, who admitted to being a drug dealer.
The government brought Leanos to testify that he was not in California in the days before the trip to Texas on which Skaggs died, intending to eliminate Leanos as a potential source of the drugs Skaggs took when he died. Leanos also testified that he once saw what appeared to be a drug transaction between Kay and Skaggs at a team charity event at Disneyland, after which Skaggs disappeared into a men’s room. Leanos said the transaction looked “odd” and that he guarded the door until Skaggs emerged. On cross-examination, he said he believed Kay had given Skaggs drugs and Skaggs had used them.
But Leanos left plenty of land mines for the prosecution.
Leanos, who said he has sold cocaine, MDMA, mushrooms and marijuana for years, testified that he received a text from Skaggs “a week or two” before the pitcher’s death with a request for oxycodone. Leanos said he rejected the request, that he does not sell opioids and that he told Skaggs to stay away from them because of the danger.
He said that after Skaggs’ death, he told Skaggs’ family about the text and then deleted it at the request of Skaggs’ stepbrother.
During cross-examination, Molfetta asked Leanos how many times since 2018 he had sold each drug in his repertoire. After Leanos answered, Molfetta said, “That’s 240 to 250 drug transactions in last three years, yet you get a deal from the government that says you can sit and admit to literally killing anybody” — at which point the government objected. Leanos has not been accused of killing anyone.
But Judge Terry R. Means allowed the question.
Molfetta repeated that Leanos hypothetically could admit to murder on the stand and not be prosecuted, “And they wanted you to talk about that one transaction at the house of the mouse, Disneyland?”
“Yes,” Leanos said. “And that I was out of town” when Skaggs left for Texas.
Leanos also admitted to bringing small amounts of cocaine and MDMA to Skaggs’ 2018 bachelor party in Las Vegas at Skaggs’ request.
• A Southlake, Texas, police detective testified that when Kay was interviewed the day Skaggs died, he lied about both having been in Skaggs’ room and Skaggs’ history of drug use.
• The government introduced extensive evidence of Kay’s seeking opioids through the online marketplace app OfferUp, in which he repeatedly said he wanted to avoid anything with fentanyl.
• The government also established numerous Venmo payments from Skaggs and pitcher Garrett Richards to Kay. Richards is expected to testify this week.
• After the government established that Leanos could not have gotten from Arizona to Anaheim, California, in time to meet Skaggs before the team flight took off, the defense raised the possibility that Leanos had a window to meet him at Long Beach Airport, from which the team airplane departed. Leanos said he did not. Both a police detective and a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent said they had not investigated that possibility.
• A mystery from last week was cleared up. The “Ben R” who exchanged texts with Skaggs the day before he died, a woman who had sent a selfie during a mildly flirtatious exchange, is Rebecca Schoeny, a catering manager at Angel Stadium. She testified that she did not have an “inappropriate relationship” with Skaggs and that she did not know why he had her listed as “Ben R” in his contacts.
• Adam Chodzko, Kay’s assistant in 2019 and his replacement as communications director, testified that in the days after Skaggs’ death, an intoxicated Kay confessed that he had been with Skaggs the night he died. Chodzko said Kay told him that he did not use that night and that whatever drugs Skaggs had were already in his room when Kay arrived.
• Chodzko said that the next day, he told team president John Carpino what had happened and then took Kay to a rehabilitation facility.
• Based on the past week’s testimony, Harvey is expected to tell jurors that he did provide Skaggs with drugs on occasion but not the ones that contributed to his death. Harvey was on the team’s injured list and did not make the trip to Texas.
The day ended with an unusual rebuke of the government. The last witness was a cardiologist who was on the stand for 20 minutes to say that Skaggs did not die from a heart issue. No one had suggested that he had, but prosecutors apparently were concerned that jurors could be confused by lines in Skaggs’ autopsy that said he had some thickening in his heart. Previous testimony established that it was perfectly normal for a professional athlete, but the government wasn’t taking chances.
After Means dismissed the jury, he said to prosecutors, “I don’t mean to be a smart aleck, but tomorrow are you going to bring another doctor to say he didn’t die of cancer? And then a nephrologist to say it wasn’t his kidneys?” He admonished them that if they run out of their allotted 20 hours of time, they won’t get more and “it will be your own fault.”