Jury selection is set to start Tuesday morning in the federal criminal trial of former political donor Ed Buck, who is accused of nine felony charges, including providing methamphetamine to two men who overdosed and died in his West Hollywood apartment.
Prosecutors allege the 66-year-old Buck had a “fetish” for paying Black men to allow him to inject them with methamphetamine — even while they were passed out. He also faces state charges of running a drug den, but the federal case is proceeding first.
Buck lured vulnerable, homeless gay men, who were addicted to drugs or working as escorts, to his Laurel Avenue apartment, where he provided drugs in exchange for sexual activity, a trial memorandum alleges.
The alleged practice turned lethal when Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean died of overdoses, according to prosecutors.
Buck’s attorney, Christopher Darden, best known for being part of the prosecution team in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, did not respond to a request for comment.
Prospective jurors in Los Angeles federal court are expected to be asked about their prior drug experiences and their views of prostitution, homelessness and witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement, court papers show.
Federal prosecutors also want to know if potential panelists or their friends or family ever had a drug problem, or whether any close friends or relatives have been drugged against their will.
“Have you had a close friend or relative die of a drug overdose?” is among questions on the government’s proposed list of juror questions.
Other questions during voir dire, or jury selection, include whether “you have any strongly held personal beliefs or opinions regarding prostitution? Do you believe that any adult who wants to pay for sexual activity with another adult should be able to do so?”
Potential jurors also could be asked if they hold any strong beliefs or opinions regarding homelessness, as well as how they feel about individuals who may have broken the law and are cooperating with the prosecution.
Buck faces nine felony counts, including two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. The counts stem from the deaths of 26-year-old Moore in July 2017 and Dean in January 2019. If convicted, each of the two charges carry 20-year mandatory minimums.
Buck is also charged with knowingly enticing Moore to travel to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution, and providing him with crystal methamphetamine before he overdosed on the drug and died. Buck is facing a second count of enticing a different man to travel with the intent of engaging in prostitution, one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing methamphetamine, and one count of using his West Hollywood apartment for the purpose of distributing narcotics such as methamphetamine, and the sedatives gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and clonazepam.
At the apartment, Buck “prepared methamphetamine syringes in a ritualistic fashion; some victims report that he required them to watch him do it,” the memo alleges.
“Buck’s preference was to personally inject victims, and he pressured or incentivized victims to let him do so, sometimes offering large cash bonuses to coerce a victim to agree to an injection or additional injections. Other times, Buck simply injected victims while they were unconscious.”
The memo describes “party and play” sessions in which Buck allegedly paid men he sometimes solicited from online gay male dating and escort sites to use drugs he provided, and perform sexual acts.
“In these party and play sessions, defendant distributed drugs, including methamphetamine, clonazepam, and GHB, to his victims, and in some instances, injected them with drugs intravenously in a practice known as `slamming,”’ prosecutors wrote.
“Defendant exerted power and control over his victims, typically targeting vulnerable individuals who were destitute, homeless, and/or struggled with drug addiction, and exploited the relative wealth and power imbalance between them by offering them money to use drugs and let Buck inject them with drugs.”
Buck was arrested in September 2019 after being charged in federal court with providing the methamphetamine that led to the overdose death of Moore. He was indicted weeks later in connection with the death of Dean.
“Sadly, neither of these deaths deterred defendant from continuing to distribute methamphetamine through party and play sessions,” prosecutors contend.
Buck has been in custody at a downtown federal lockup since his arrest.
The trial is expected to last about 10 days.