A self-described crystal methamphetamine addict told a Los Angeles federal jury Tuesday that he “felt death” creeping up on him after Ed Buck injected him repeatedly with the drug during “party and play” sessions for which the former West Hollywood-based political donor paid him $250 for each of four encounters.
Jermaine Terrell Gagnon, 31, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who also lived for a time in Los Angeles, testified that he met Buck through a gay dating app in March 2018 — and was paid $250 for an initial nine-hour session involving “tina” — a street name for methamphetamine — and sex play.
Gagnon said he went to Buck’s apartment three additional times, including once when Buck paid for him to fly to Los Angeles from Iowa, and then later for a plane ticket to Florida.
Buck’s profile on the dating site noted he was “generous” and liked men’s “bulges,” Gagnon said, explaining that generous meant willing to pay for sex.
“I liked drugs and needed money,” Gagnon told the jury. “He had the drugs already.”
Gagnon said he didn’t know at the time that a 26-year-old man, Gemmel Moore, had died of a drug overdose at Buck’s apartment eight months earlier. A second man, 55-year-old Timothy Dean, would be found dead in the apartment 10 months after Gagnon’s first visit.
Buck faces nine felony counts, including two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death, stemming from the deaths of Moore in July 2017 and Dean in January 2019. If convicted, each of the two charges carry 20-year mandatory minimums.
Buck is additionally charged with knowingly enticing Moore to travel to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution.
He also faces a second count of enticing a different man to travel with the same intent; 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.
Gagnon, testifying on the fifth day of Buck’s trial, told the jury that he had never injected methamphetamine before Buck insisted he try it. At one point, during his fourth visit to Buck’s apartment, he said he lay down and felt his heart beating rapidly.
“My head felt like it was going to pop off,” he told the jury, adding that he “felt death” coming upon him, but “something in my head said get up.”
The witness said he left the apartment and went to a nearby store, where he purchased two knives and a Taser electroshock weapon “for protection.”
Asked by Buck’s attorney, Chris Darden, why he went back to Buck’s apartment after the initial visit where he was injected with meth, Gagnon said, “I’m a drug addict. I needed the drugs and the money. That’s why I went back.”
Darden tried to suggest to the jury that Gagnon was a con man with a criminal record who, after learning that Buck was linked to the two deaths, “sold his story” to the Daily Mail and a film production company which is making a documentary on the Buck case.
Gagnon admitted that he received $500 from the British tabloid for an interview and expected to be paid a total of $5,000 by the film company.
Darden told the panel during opening statements last week that his client was unfairly “selected” for prosecution for unexplained reasons. Party and play, the attorney told the jury, is “conduct millions of people engage in.”
The defense is also expected to put forth evidence that both Dean and Moore had underlying health problems that caused their deaths, not the drugs they may have ingested in Buck’s presence.
Prosecutors contend Buck had a “fetish” for paying Black men he met online to smoke and shoot methamphetamine, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. He also faces state charges of running a drug den, but the federal case is proceeding first.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Norell, Buck’s alleged “ritual” involved injecting men “over and over” with methamphetamine.
She alleged in her opening statement that even after Moore died, Buck “continued to insist that his dates get as high as possible,” and called Gagnon to the stand Tuesday to back up the allegation.
Best known for being part of the prosecution team in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, Darden previously described Buck as an advocate for LGBTQ and Black civil rights, animal rights and a supporter of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Buck has been in custody at a downtown federal lockup since his arrest.
The defense case is expected to begin Thursday and closing arguments could take place Friday.
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