LOS ANGELES — Dressed in a drab prison jumpsuit, Ed Buck shuffled into a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Oct. 10 looking frail and disoriented.
The 65-year-old gay businessman known for his contributions to prominent politicians, appeared in court for federal drug charges accusing him of distributing methamphetamine that led to the overdose death of Gemmel Moore, 26, in July 2017 and Timothy Dean, 55, in January 2019 and three other federal counts of distributing meth.
When Federal Magistrate Frederick Mumm asked how he would plead, Buck replied, “I am working on one hearing aid,” before responding “not guilty.”
Buck remains in federal custody without bond. His next hearing is set for Nov. 26.
After the brief courtroom procedure Oct. 10, Buck was escorted back to jail. Family and friends of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean gathered in front of the courthouse to make a statement.
Moore’s mother LaTisha Nixon spoke about seeing Buck in court for the first time.
“It was bittersweet,” she said. “Seeing Ed Buck in court today, it just enraged me because here’s this man who tries to appear like he’s feeble, he can’t hear. We’re not buying it. We know he’s a monster.”
If convicted of the federal charges, Buck could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison to a maximum sentence of life without parole.
Family members expressed anger at the amount of time it took the district attorney to file charges against Buck, but were grateful that the federal authorities stepped in and conducted a thorough investigation.
“We thank the feds for taking this case and making it move in a positive direction because the district attorney was not doing that,” said Dean’s sister, Joyce Jackson.
“This is what it takes to actually get the job done. To get black stories heard,” said Moore’s close friend Cory McLean. “To get the justice for the victims that we need, versus if it was white, this would have been solved a long time ago.”
“One good thing that came out of this is that people are safe. He can’t hurt nobody anymore,” said Nixon, who has since amended the charges in her civil lawsuit against the D.A.’s office to include racial and sexual discrimination.
The case began when Moore was found dead of a crystal meth overdose in Buck’s West Hollywood apartment on July 27, 2017. The county coroner’s office reported that on the floor were “24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, and a clear plastic bag with a piece of crystal-like substance.”
His death was immediately classified as an accidental methamphetamine overdose by the coroner. It was destined to be forgotten quickly. But this story wasn’t going away.
Nineteen days after his death, Nixon released accounts from Moore’s journal to the news media.
“I honestly don’t know what to do,” Moore wrote. “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of crystal meth. It was very painful but after all the troubles, I became addicted to the pain and fetish fantasy.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide bureau opened an investigation. Twelve months later, in July 2018, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced her decision not to file charges against Buck in connection with Moore’s death, citing insufficient evidence.
This past Jan. 7, 18 months after Moore’s death, Timothy Dean, another black gay man, died in Buck’s apartment. At the scene of Dean’s death, the coroner’s report noted that Buck’s living room was littered with clothing and sex toys. Investigators collected three sealed glass vials, three syringes and two glass pipes. One of the pipes contained methamphetamine. One of the vials was labeled “naloxone,” the medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The report also noted two pieces of thick, clear plastic tubing was found near Dean’s body.
The coroner’s investigation ruled Dean’s death resulted from alcohol toxicity and a methamphetamine overdose.
The district attorney’s office again did not bring changes against Buck.
Frustrated with the lack of progress, Nixon filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Buck, accusing him of “forcibly injecting” her son with a lethal dose of meth. Lacey and Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum were also named in the suit for violating Moore’s 14th Amendment rights by “failing and refusing to impartially prosecute white men, like Mr. Buck, who commit felonious crimes of narcotics possession and physical violence against black men.”
On Sept. 11, a 37-year-old man, identified only as Joe Doe, called 911 seeking medical treatment for a drug overdose. According to a federal court affidavit, the man alleged that “Buck solicited him to engage in sexual activities and distributed methamphetamine to him nearly every day during a one-month period from on or about July 29, 2019 to on or about Sept. 6, 2019.”
Doe said Buck gave him “two dangerously large” doses of meth on two occasions causing him to “suffer overdose effects” and then tried to prevent him from seeking help, but he managed to escape Buck’s apartment.
This time, Lacey said Doe’s statement provided “legally sufficient evidence to establish the charged crimes and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in state court.”
Buck was arrested on Sept. 17 and charged by the state on three counts: “battery causing serious injury; administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house.”
The state charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years and 8 months in state prison.
After learning about the Buck case from sheriff investigators earlier this summer, the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office began its own investigation.
That investigation concluded in September with a 21-page affidavit that outlines a disturbing pattern of Buck soliciting men for sex in exchange for drugs and money. The documents show Buck had engaged in dangerous sexual fetishes for years.
Prosecutors accused him of manipulating homeless men and sex workers to do drugs for his pleasure, often at risk to their own safety. Several claimed Buck injected them while they were sleeping, and two described incidents that amounted to allegations of sexual misconduct, according to court records.