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The Complicity of Eric Kay

 
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dodgerblue6



Joined: 10 Aug 2005
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Location: San Diego CA - deep in the heart of SoCal

PostPosted: Sat 2/12/22 8:47 pm    Post subject: The Complicity of Eric Kay Reply with quote

Posting this from the L.A. Times retroactively, since the trial just started. Updates to come.

"What to Watch as Eric Kay’s Trial Begins Nearly Three Years After Tyler Skaggs’ Death"

BY NATHAN FENNO, STAFF WRITER
FEB. 7, 2022 8:24 PM PT

On a July afternoon more than two and a half years ago, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas.

The sudden death of the popular 27-year-old sent shock waves through Major League Baseball. They intensified when the Tarrant County medical examiner ruled Skaggs died from “mixed ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication” that led to choking on his own vomit.

What happened in Room 469 at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square brought professional baseball face to face with the country’s opioid epidemic and triggered a sprawling investigation by the Southlake Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration that led to a longtime Angels front-office employee.

After several delays, jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday for the trial of Eric Kay, the team’s former communications director, who is charged in connection with Skaggs’ death.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth will open a window into allegations Kay distributed opioids to Angels players, provide more details about the final days of Skaggs after an investigation where law enforcement released few details, and could pull in several team employees and former players.

Here’s a closer look at the case:

What are the charges?

Kay faces two counts: giving Skaggs counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl that resulted in his death and conspiring since at least 2017 to “conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute” fentanyl and oxycodone.

After being charged July 30, 2020, and indicted two and a half months later, prosecutors secured a superseding indictment against Kay in November 2021 that expanded the second charge to include oxycodone. Prosecutors said the opioid was added so as not to confuse the jury, but defense attorneys told Judge Terry R. Means it necessitated revamping their strategy. He agreed, and delayed the trial that had been six days away.

Kay has pleaded not guilty.

Who could testify?

Prosecutors have filed an amended list of 78 potential witnesses. The vast majority won’t take the stand. But among the Angels employees, law enforcement and experts are seven former Angels players: Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron, Matt Harvey, Andrew Heaney, Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Garrett Richards.

The former players are important to watch because prosecutors said in a court filing in August 2021 they planned to present testimony from “approximately” five Major League Baseball players alleging they received oxycodone from Kay. Little more is known about this, other than the amounts ranged from “two to three pills while others would ask for up to 20 pills.”

The list of 35 possible witnesses filed by Kay’s attorneys added a handful of players: Justin Bour, Trevor Cahill, Noe Ramirez and Andrelton Simmons.

Has anyone else been implicated?

No one else is known to have been charged in the case. However, the list of exhibits filed by prosecutors last week includes immunity letters for three individuals identified by initials — C.C., M.M. and B.P. — plus grand jury and trial immunity orders for a fourth person identified as M.H.

One of the proposed voir dire questions by prosecutors adds to the intrigue: In criminal cases there are times when individuals may have been involved in the alleged underlying criminal activity, but reach an agreement with the government that the information they provide to the government will not be used against them in a court of law. … In the event such persons are called as witnesses in this case, is there any member of the panel who would automatically reject the testimony of such a witness merely because of the agreement they have struck with the government?”

What evidence could be discussed?

The attorneys may cite records such as text messages and GPS location data connected to at least eight phone numbers — they include the numbers for Kay and Skaggs and a former Angels clubhouse attendant — plus account information from websites such as Venmo and OfferUp. There’s evidence seized from Skaggs’ hotel room (including a counterfeit 30-milligram oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl and legitimate painkilling medication) and items seized from Kay’s desk at Angel Stadium that law enforcement said tested positive for traces of various drugs. There are key card records from the Hilton, medical records and much, much more.

What are the big questions?

Can prosecutors prove that Kay gave Skaggs the counterfeit oxycodone pills that he crushed and snorted? And did that cause Skaggs’ death? A one-sentence allegation in the affidavit supporting the original complaint is key: “It was later determined that but for the fentanyl in [Skaggs’] system, Skaggs] would not have died.”

There’s also the allegation Kay distributed opioids in the team’s clubhouse? How long did this occur? Which players got them? How many pills were involved? And who knew?

How long might the trial take?

The judge issued an order last year giving the government 20 hours to make its case and the defense 15 hours to respond. He estimated a full day of trial will account for four to five hours from those totals. But neither total includes items such as final arguments.
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sunnyblue



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PostPosted: Sat 2/12/22 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we all agree this will set some kind of precedent on the problem of opioids in sports. We also know the Skaggs family is suing the Angels. Who's really responsible? Is it a little of all of these parties?
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Mon 2/14/22 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two articles of coverage from the L.A. Times:

"Tyler Skaggs’ Mother Testifies That Angels Pitcher Had Opioid Issue in 2013"

BY JORGE CASTILLO, STAFF WRITER
FEB. 9, 2022 7:44 PM PT

FORT WORTH — On the first full day of testimony in the trial of Eric Kay, a former Angels employee charged with giving pitcher Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death, Debbie Hetman testified that her son admitted he had an “issue” with Percocet nearly six years before he was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room in July 2019.

Hetman spent 50 minutes on the witness stand in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. Shortly into her testimony she said Skaggs informed the family of his problem after the 2013 season and went to a family physician to seek help. Percocet, an opioid, is a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Hetman testified that Skaggs was prescribed medication to “wean off” the drug, but Skaggs chose not to take it. Instead, she said, he quit “cold turkey.”

“It was probably the most painful thing he’d been through,” Hetman said.

Hetman said her son’s situation improved, but she also testified the addiction remained enough of a concern that Skaggs wasn’t prescribed opioids after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2014.

Hetman said she and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery, met to tell Skaggs he wouldn’t be prescribed “anything stronger” than Tylenol 3, a pain reliever with acetaminophen and codeine — another opioid.

A few hours earlier Wednesday, Andrew Heaney, one of Skaggs’ best friends on the Angels, reiterated during cross-examination that he didn’t know Skaggs abused drugs. He did say: “It’s safe to say at least a few” major leaguers sought opioid painkillers from people outside of team doctors.

Skaggs was found dead in Room 469 at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square on the afternoon of July 1, 2019, two weeks before his 28th birthday.

“It was the worst day of my life,” Hetman said.

The death put Major League Baseball in the middle of the country’s opioid crisis.

In response, five months after Skaggs’ death, MLB and its players’ union agreed to add opioid testing to the drug policy for major leaguers and not punish marijuana use in the major or minor leagues. The change was implemented for the 2020 season.

Several former Angels could take the witness stand during the trial, which is expected to last two weeks. Player drug use beyond Skaggs is expected to surface.

The subject was already broached in court during opening statements Tuesday. First, it was noted that Kay allegedly provided pills to players other than Skaggs. Defense attorney Reagan Wynn then said Kay saw Skaggs using other drugs in his room the night he died. According to Kay, Skaggs said he acquired Percocet from former Angels pitcher Matt Harvey.

An investigation by the Southlake Police Dept. and Drug Enforcement Administration led to Kay, who worked in the Angels’ communications department for 25 years. He was charged with two felony counts: supplying Skaggs counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl that resulted in his death and conspiring since at least 2017 to “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and oxycodone.”

To obtain a conviction, the government will have to convince the 12-person jury that Skaggs choked on his own vomit after ingesting drugs Kay provided and that the alleged crimes occurred in Texas.

Kay, 47, pleaded not guilty. Wynn described him in his opening statement Tuesday as a drug addict who checked himself into an outpatient rehabilitation program in April 2019. He also conceded that Kay initially lied to police about visiting Skaggs’ room the night of his death.

Angels traveling secretary Tom Taylor testified Wednesday he was eating lunch at a barbecue restaurant with Kay on July 1 when he received texts from Skaggs’ wife, Carli, and Heaney saying they couldn’t get in touch with Skaggs hours before the Angels were scheduled to begin a series against the Texas Rangers.

Taylor said he then asked Charles Knight, a former Angels security official, to meet him in the hotel lobby for a welfare check of Skaggs’ room. Knight testified that a hotel staffer opened the door and he entered to discover Skaggs dead.

Knight said Skaggs didn’t have a pulse and was “cold to the touch.” Photos presented to the jury showed Skaggs’ body face down on a bed shirtless. His feet hung off the bed. A pool of blood has settled under his discolored face. His cellphone was positioned between his right arm and head. The pillows, just above his body, appeared untouched.

Thomas Roberson, a Southlake Police Dept. detective who processed the scene, testified that his initial observation was Skaggs fell over on to the bed. A few feet away, Roberson said he discovered white powdery residue on the desk and the carpet underneath.

Hetman watched the proceedings unfold from the courtroom’s gallery, seated next to her husband Daniel Ramos. She left the witness stand soon after choking up describing her anger after her son’s death to assistant U.S. attorney Lindsey Beran.

“I was angry because I knew my son loved life,” Hetman said.

“He was a great son,” she said, fighting back tears.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Eric Kay’s Defense Argues Fentanyl Was Not Sole Cause of Tyler Skaggs’ Death"

BY JORGE CASTILLO, STAFF WRITER
FEB. 10, 2022 7:38 PM PT

FORT WORTH — Eric Kay’s defense Thursday attempted to discredit the government’s contention 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, formerly a Tarrant County medical examiner who conducted Skaggs’ autopsy report, if he could say Skaggs would be alive if he didn’t take fentanyl. Krouse said there is a “greater probability” Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher, wouldn’t have died based on the evidence, but “no scientist” could be 100% sure.

According to the autopsy report, which ruled the death as 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, hours before the Angels were scheduled to begin a series against the Texas Rangers.

Krouse was fired last March after an audit discovered he committed significant mistakes on other autopsies — a development Wynn resurfaced to conclude the cross-examination — but he has not been accused of errors while examining Skaggs.

Kay, a former Angels communications director, was charged with two felony counts — providing Skaggs counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl that led to his death and distributing fentanyl and oxycodone since at least 2017. Kay, 47, has pleaded not guilty.

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

Kay would face a 20-year minimum 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 provide Skaggs the fatal drugs, but that he gave them to Skaggs in Texas and not in California. The defense conceded Kay was an addict and consumed drugs with the pitcher, but the attorneys say there is no proof Kay gave Skaggs the drugs in Texas.

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

“If you distribute any controlled substance — and oxy without a prescription is a controlled substance — you don’t have to know what the actual substance is,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor with no ties to the case, said Thursday. “So if I’m dealing oxy and it’s actually fentanyl, or it’s a combination of both, it doesn’t matter as long as I know I’m distributing a controlled substance.”

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

Southlake Police Department Cpl. Delaney Green, a detective at the time of
Skaggs’ death, testified that Kay initially didn’t tell investigators that he saw Skaggs the night he died — a point Wynn conceded during his opening statement Tuesday. Wynn called it “the stupidest 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 saw Skaggs only after Adam Chodzko, another Angels communications employee, told the police. Green said Kay then became a person of interest. Text messages between Skaggs and Kay found in Skaggs’ phone and presented Thursday indicated Skaggs invited Kay to his room and Kay agreed to go on the night of June 30.

The suggestion of messages being deleted from Skaggs’ phone was first raised Wednesday when Michael Molfetta, Kay’s other defense attorney, asked Skaggs’ mother, Debbie Hetman, if she knew that her stepson, Garet Ramos, had deleted text messages from the phone. It was the first such public accusation.

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 passcode. She said that Ramos then took the phone to change the passcode, but she said she wasn’t aware of Ramos deleting texts.

Green’s testimony corroborated that Hetman and Ramos handled the phone. She said that another officer in the room stood 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 the phone.
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sunnyblue



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PostPosted: Tue 2/15/22 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the coverage, DB. I know you have more to come from the last couple of days in the courtroom.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Thu 2/17/22 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And now they're saying Matt Harvey could be disciplined by MLB for his testimony. Rolling Eyes
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Thu 2/17/22 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The verdict is in. Kay was found guilty!
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Thu 2/17/22 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't see it coming down that fast! It just went to the jury today!

From the L.A. Times:

"Eric Kay Found Guilty of Supplying Drugs That Led to Death of Angels’ Tyler Skaggs"


BY JORGE CASTILLO, STAFF WRITER
FEB. 17, 2022 UPDATED 2:25 PM PT

FORT WORTH — A jury on Thursday found Eric Kay guilty of giving Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death in July 2019.

The 12-person jury concluded that Kay, a former Angels communications director, is guilty of both crimes he was charged with in relation to Skaggs’ death: distributing fentanyl and oxycodone since “beginning or before 2017” and providing Skaggs the fentanyl that resulted in him choking in his vomit in a suburban Dallas hotel room.

Kay, 47, faces between 20 years and life in a federal prison and up to a $1- million fine for being convicted of giving Skaggs the drugs that resulted in his death. His sentencing is scheduled for June 28.

While the jury had to believe Kay distributed the drugs to Skaggs beyond a reasonable doubt for a guilty verdict, the group only had to be convinced that Kay gave Skaggs the drugs in the Northern District of Texas “more likely than not.” In other words, the jury could have been convinced to a lesser extent that Kay gave Skaggs the drugs in Texas and not in California.

Skaggs, an Angels pitcher, was found dead in Room 469 of the Hilton Southlake/Dallas Town Square just after 2 p.m. CDT on July 1, 2019. He was 27. The Angels had flown to Texas from the Long Beach Airport the previous night to begin a series against the Texas Rangers that day.

An autopsy report concluded Skaggs had fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system, but the government argued Skaggs wouldn’t have died “but for” the fentanyl, which it argued originated from counterfeit oxycodone pills Kay provided Skaggs in Texas.

Rusty Hardin, the attorney for the Skaggs family, said in a statement: “The trial showed Eric Kay’s drug trafficking was known to numerous people in the Angels organization, and it resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of one of their most popular players. We have no doubt that the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct.

“In the upcoming civil cases, we are looking forward to holding the team accountable. While this verdict is the beginning of seeing justice served, it is a painful reminder of a very sad day in the life of Tyler’s family. It is obviously a bad day for the Angels, who have given a black eye to our National Pastime. I am confident that Major League Baseball will give this important issue the attention and corrective measures it deserves.”

The Skaggs family also released a statement: “We are very grateful to the government and the jury for seeing this important case through to the right verdict. 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.”

Angels President John Carpino said in a statement: “On behalf of the entire Angels organization, we are saddened by the devastating heartache that surrounds this tragedy, especially for the Skaggs family. Our compassion goes out to all families and individuals that have been impacted. The players’ testimony was incredibly difficult for our organization to hear, and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away. From the moment we learned of Tyler’s death, our focus has been to fully understand the circumstances that led to this tragedy.

“We are thankful that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have taken the important step to update their drug policies for players using opioids so that they can receive help.”

This is a developing story that will be updated.
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sunnyblue



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PostPosted: Thu 2/17/22 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see new policies coming to MLB! If they ever get their act together and work out a deal on the CBA! First things first.

As they say baseball is a reflection of what's going on in America and opioids are a big crisis in our country.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Sun 2/20/22 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fallout, according to the L.A. Times:

"Eric Kay Verdict is the Start of a Long, Sad Road for Angels, MLB and Skaggs Family"


BY BILL SHAIKIN, STAFF WRITER
FEB. 17, 2022 6:22 PM PT

FORT WORTH — In the very first sentence of its closing statement Thursday, the federal government made clear what it believed this trial was all about. “This case,” assistant U.S. attorney Lindsey Beran told the jury, “was about one person.”

That person is Eric Kay, the former Angels publicist convicted of giving Tyler Skaggs the fentanyl-laced pills that killed him. Kay was not a high-ranking executive, a coach, certainly not a famous player. He was a troubled mid-level employee linked to a tragedy and, now, to a sentence of 20 years to life. This particular trial might have been about one defendant, but the impacts of the trial will extend far beyond one person.

The guilty verdicts delivered Thursday were the first in what could be a painful and prolonged series of reckonings for the Angels, for Major League Baseball, and for the Skaggs family. The involvement of high-profile players and a deep-pocketed team mean this is the end of a chapter, not the end of the story.

With the trial concluded, MLB plans to launch its own investigation, a league official told The Los Angeles Times, requesting anonymity since no formal announcement has been made. Testimony from the trial will play a significant role in the MLB investigation, and in two wrongful-death lawsuits that the Skaggs family has filed against the Angels, one in California and one in Texas.

“It is obviously a bad day for the Angels, who have given a black eye to our National Pastime,” Rusty Hardin, the attorney for the Skaggs family, said in a statement.

The investigation, and even more so the lawsuits, will focus on these questions: What did the Angels know, and when did they know it?

“The players’ testimony was incredibly difficult for our organization to hear,” Angels President John Carpino said in a statement, “and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away.”

That indeed is too often the case. In this case, however, testimony from the Kay trial suggests drug use and addiction were not hidden away among the Angels.

Matt Harvey said he used opioids in the dugout, and in the clubhouse. He said Skaggs used opioids in the clubhouse bathroom. C.J. Cron said Kay would put opioids in his clubhouse locker.

Kay used various suppliers, his attorneys argued, including an Angel Stadium clubhouse attendant. In filing the wrongful-death lawsuits, attorneys for the Skaggs family alleged Kay had furnished illegal drugs to at least five Angels players — and testimony here validated that allegation.

“The trial showed Eric Kay’s drug trafficking was known to numerous people in the Angels organization, and it resulted in the tragic and unnecessary death of one of their most popular players,” Hardin said in his statement. “We have no doubt that the Angels knew what Eric Kay was doing, and the team is morally and legally responsible for his conduct. In the upcoming civil cases, we are looking forward to holding the team accountable.”

The Angels have previously said they conducted an investigation and found no evidence team management was “aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player.”

The MLB investigation is expected to consider whether there is an opioid issue within the Angels and within the league. After Skaggs died, the league started testing for opioids. In the first two years of testing, a league official said, no player violated the MLB drug policy because of a positive test for opioids.

The wrongful-death lawsuits claim the Angels — at least before Skaggs’ death
— maintained “a toxic environment that pressured players to play through injuries.” With players testifying here that they used opioids as painkillers in order to stay on the field, assistant U.S. attorney Errin Martin said, “There’s no question the MLB system is broken. They have to play. They have to do whatever it takes to play.”

In 1998, when the Associated Press reported Mark McGwire had a bottle of a since-banned testosterone-producing aid called androstenedione in his locker, the report triggered anguish but no immediate action toward a steroid testing program in MLB.

Kay allegedly put opioids in Cron’s locker, but the subsequent opioid testing might have resolved the issue, for the Angels and for MLB. We’ll see. The trouble for MLB is that civil suits can take years to resolve, so in theory the league could be forced to choose between wrapping up its investigation in a timely manner, or letting it linger for years to get the benefit of whatever information might be revealed in the wrongful-death suits.

There are all kinds of pretrial skirmishes now, about where a trial should take place, and which lawyer should be allowed to represent the Skaggs family, and whether a suit should be thrown out entirely.

The road ahead is long, and Thursday’s verdict puts an uncomfortable spotlight on a disturbing question: Should the Angels be held liable for the death of one of their players?
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Tue 11/1/22 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Someone fell asleep on this one... Surprised
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Wed 11/2/22 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, wow! I was so excited about the Padres in the playoffs at the time that it was just a brief fleeting thought through my mind when I heard the news.
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