Noted Democratic Party donor and activist Ed Buck, who is already facing state charges of running a drug den in his West Hollywood apartment, appeared in federal court Thursday on a charge of providing drugs that killed a 26-year-old man in his apartment two years ago.
Buck, 65, was charged Wednesday with a single count of distribution of methamphetamine resulting in the death of Gemmel Moore, who died July 27, 2017, of an overdose in Buck’s apartment in the 1200 block of Laurel Avenue. Buck was not asked to enter a plea during his federal court appearance, and will remain in custody pending a detention hearing Sept. 26 in downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles County prosecutors had earlier declined to file any state charges against Buck over Moore’s death, citing insufficient evidence.
Moore was the first of two men to die at Buck’s apartment in less than 18 months. He was found dead of a crystal methamphetamine overdose, and the coroner ruled the death accidental. On Jan. 7 of this year, a second man died of methamphetamine toxicity at Buck’s home. The death of Timothy Dean, 55, of West Hollywood, was also ruled accidental. County prosecutors said that case remains under review.
Buck was not arrested until Tuesday night, when he was charged by the District Attorney’s Office over a near-fatal overdose in his apartment that occurred Sept. 11. Buck allegedly injected a man with “two dangerously large doses” of methamphetamine at Buck’s apartment. He allegedly administering a “dangerously large dose of methamphetamine” to the same man one week earlier, according to a bail memorandum filed by Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes.
Buck allegedly refused to render aid to the man, who eventually fled from the apartment and called 911 from a nearby gas station, according to the document. The 37-year-old man suffered an overdose but survived, authorities said.
Buck was charged in Superior Court with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house. He appeared briefly in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Thursday morning, but his arraignment was delayed until Oct. 11.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said her office had spent “many months” conducting interviews and investigating “a troubling and disturbing pattern” of allegations against Buck, but did not develop enough admissible evidence to use in court until the alleged near-fatal overdose last week.
“The victim that came forward gave us the break we needed … to put this depraved sexual predator away,” Lacey said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles. “What we care about is justice for these victims.”
Buck was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $4 million bail on the state charges, and transferred to federal custody. Officials said the federal case would proceed prior to the state charges. The state charges against Buck carry a possible prison sentence of five years and eight months, but the federal charge could land him behind bars for a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life without parole.
Jasmyne Cannick, a political consultant and spokeswoman for Moore’s mother, said she is “incredibly grateful and thankful that something is finally being done” about Buck. She said that with Bucks’ arrest, “the life expectancy of black gay men in Los Angeles County just increased substantially.”
Federal prosecutors said Buck has a history of injecting men with drugs and paying them for sexual activity. They contend Buck flew Moore to Los Angeles and gave him drugs and money in exchange for sex. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Moore’s mother reported to investigators that her son had told her that Buck “held Mr. Moore against his will and shot him up with drugs.”
Hanna said investigators have identified 10 other “victims” — including Dean, who died in Buck’s apartment in January. The other nine victims all said Buck administered drugs to them or strongly encouraged them to do so, and paid them for sex, Hanna said.
Hanna told reporters that Buck presented “a serious threat to public safety.”
According to a federal court affidavit, the man who nearly overdosed in Buck’s apartment — leading to the state charges — told investigators that “Buck solicited him to engage in sexual activities and distributed methamphetamine to him nearly every day during an approximately one-month period from on or about July 29, 2019, to on or about September 6, 2019.” The man said Buck “intravenously injected methamphetamine” into him on both Sept. 4 and Sept. 11, causing him “to suffer overdose effects, requiring him to be transported to the hospital.”
Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, has denied that his client — who allegedly was present when the fatal overdoses occurred in his apartment — had any involvement in either death.
After Buck’s appearance in Superior Court Thursday morning, Amster said, “We will fight this case vigorously, but I’m not so sure legitimately that there was ever enough evidence to ever cause this (state) case to be filed until recently. So, we had two previous incidents. We all know that. We all know that the coroner’s office came out with an accidental death (finding). There were some complaints that political donations in hundreds of dollars made a difference. I’ve never heard anything so absurd in my life. We had a situation here where the prosecution believes they have a witness, therefore they have probable cause. I don’t see where the probable cause existed prior to this event so let us look at things properly.”
Barnes, the deputy district attorney, wrote in the Superior Court bail memorandum that Buck is “a violent, dangerous sexual predator” who “mainly preys on men made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness” and that he is “still a suspect in the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean.”
“Not deterred by the senseless deaths of Moore and Dean, the defendant nearly killed a third victim last week,” the deputy district attorney wrote. “The defendant’s predatory acts and conscious disregard for human life must be stopped.”
The prosecutor alleged that Buck lured “these vulnerable victims” to his house by using “the bait of narcotics, money and shelter.”
“From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes. These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims,” Barnes wrote in her court filing. “The defendant’s predatory acts and willful disregard for human life must be stopped before another life is lost.”
Buck and Lacey are being sued in federal court over Moore’s death. Moore’s mother alleges that Buck lured her son from Houston to Los Angeles for the purpose of engaging in “commercial” sex acts.
The civil lawsuit accuses Buck of human trafficking and engaging in “revenge porn” by making and sharing a video of his alleged “meth-fueled sexual encounters” with Moore.
Lacey and Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum are named as co-defendants for allegedly violating Moore’s civil rights in their refusal to prosecute Buck.
Buck, a former Republican who first made headlines in the 1980s when he spearheaded a recall drive against Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, has been a frequent donor to Democratic candidates and office holders. He has also been active in LGBTQ political circles and once ran for the West Hollywood City Council.