Local News West Hollywood

WeHo political donor indicted over drug deaths

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Prominent political donor Ed Buck was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 2 in connection with two drug overdose deaths in his local apartment in July 2017 and January of this year.

The indictment returned in U.S. District Court charged Buck with distributing methamphetamine resulting in the deaths of Timothy Dean in January and Gemmel Moore in 2017.

Buck, 65, had been previously charged with providing the methamphetamine that caused the overdose death of Moore. But the grand jury indictment also charged him with the same offense for the Jan. 7 death of Dean, who also died of an overdose in Buck’s apartment.

The indictment also accused Buck of distributing meth to three other men — in May and December of last year and in September of this year.

The two charges of providing drugs resulting in death each carry a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. The three counts of distributing methamphetamine each carry a possible sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Buck also faces state charges of running a drug den in his West Hollywood apartment, but the federal case will be handled first.

Buck has been in custody since being arrested Sept. 17 on the state charges.

He was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $4 million bail on the state charges, but he was transferred to federal custody when he was initially charged in connection with Moore’s death, and ordered to remain jailed without bail.

The latest indictment contends Buck “engaged in a pattern of soliciting men to consume drugs that Buck provided and perform sexual acts at Buck’s apartment,” a pattern described as “party and play.” It alleges that Buck solicited victims on social media and also used a recruiter to scout and proposition men.

“Buck exerted power over his victims, often targeting vulnerable individuals who were destitute, homeless and/or struggled with drug addiction, in order to exploit the relative wealth and power imbalance between them,” according to the indictment.

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.

Family members and other connected with the case responded to news of Buck’s indictment.

“I just wanted to thank everyone who played a part in getting this indictment, especially the feds for taking this case,” said Joann Campbell, Timothy Dean’s sister. “My family is overjoyed with the news today.”

“Although I’m happy justice has found its way through all the red tape, delays, and uneven landscape of the law, its with a heavy heart because our friend and brother and two mother’s son are not here with us,” said Walter Harris, a longtime friend of Dean. “It’s hard to be really happy but we are humbly satisfied that that no one else will have to suffer at the hands of someone that didn’t value their lives and was only interested in his own self gratification.” 

Buck also is a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by attorneys Turk Hussain and Nana Gyamfi on behalf of Moore’s estate and his mother LaTisha Nixon.

Also named in that suit are Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum, who are accused of violating Moore’s civil rights in their race-based refusal to prosecute Buck. Jasmyne Cannick, a spokesperson for Nixon, said the civil rights causes of action against Lacey and Hum were historically used against prosecutors who similarly refused to prosecute Ku Klux Klansmen for their violent crimes against black people.

Responding to news of the indictment, Turk said: “The county’s failure to do what the United States Department of Justice has only recently done is proof of the county’s unconstitutional policy of refusing to take seriously criminal complaints made by black gay men.

“This policy has serious implications,” Turk added. “It means that the county does not value the lives of its most vulnerable members, that they can be victimized with impunity. I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice for doing what the county failed to do.  I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice for saying black lives matter.”

In addition to seeking general damages, the lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Nixon and her attorneys last week filed an amendment to their original complaint in U.S. District Court accusing Buck of human trafficking.

Buck knowingly utilized interstate commerce for the purpose of recruiting, enticing and transporting Moore from Houston to Los Angeles for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts, the complaint says.

Buck might still be free to look for other men to ply with drugs if it wasn’t for what happened to a victim known only as Joe Doe.

On Sept. 4, Doe went to Buck’s West Hollywood apartment and, according to court papers, Buck “personally and deliberately administered a large dose of methamphetamine” to him. Concerned he was suffering an overdose, the man left the apartment to seek medical assistance.

On Sept. 11, he returned to Buck’s apartment and was again injected with two dangerously large doses of methamphetamine prosecutors said. This time, the man alleged that Buck tried to prevent him from getting help. Eventually, Doe was able to escape from Buck’s apartment and called 911 from a nearby gas station. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station launched another investigation into Buck.

Lacey says Doe’s statement was the break prosecutors needed to bring charges against Buck.

“It gave us legally sufficient evidence to establish the charged crimes and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in state court,” Lacey said at a press conference shortly after Buck’s arrest last month.

During that same press conference, U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna announced the federal charges being brought against Buck: distributing methamphetamine that directly resulted in the overdose death of Gemmel Moore.

The criminal complaint alleging Buck was responsible for Moore’s death was supported by a 21-page affidavit that outlined a pattern of Buck soliciting other men for sex in exchange for drugs and money. Investigators have located 10 additional victims, nine of whom said Buck administered drugs to them or strongly encouraged them to ingest narcotics as part of agreements to be compensated for sexual services.

According to the affidavit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, even after the deaths of Moore and Dean, Buck continued to solicit men for sex with promises of paying them in money and drugs.

City News Service contributed to this story.