Ed Buck, the prominent political donor accused of running a southern California drug den linked to two deaths, was slapped with a federal charge Thursday that could land him in prison for life.
The new complaint, following two days after his arrest in a separate state case, alleges Buck provided the lethal dose of methamphetamine that resulted in the overdose death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore inside Buck’s West Hollywood apartment on July 27, 2017.
U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna branded Buck a “serious threat to public safety” as he announced the charge at a press conference in Los Angeles Thursday.
Hanna said evidence shows Buck “brought” Moore to Los Angeles from Texas “for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.”
“Mr. Buck agreed to pay the victim with money and narcotics,” Hanna said. “During the investigation, Mr. Moore’s mother told investigators that her son reported months before his death that Mr. Buck had ‘held Mr. Moore against his will and shot him up with drugs.’”
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Hanna said investigators have identified 10 additional victims in the case.
He said the evidence shows Buck was behind “a series of drug overdoses” in a pattern of behavior that involved “the dangerous exploitation of homeless men and other disadvantaged individuals.”
Buck, 65, was first arrested Tuesday and charged in the separate state case with felony counts of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house.
He was willingly handed over to federal custody Thursday to face the new federal felony charge carrying a harsher punishment, DA Jackie Lacey said at the press conference.
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She said the charges her office announced Tuesday carry a maximum sentence of only five years and eight months in prison.
Faced with repeated questions about why it took so long to arrest Buck in the first place, Lacey said her office had trouble building a case with “admissible” evidence.
She said some witnesses “lawyered up” and stopped cooperating while other evidence, including Moore’s alleged statement to his mom, amounted to hearsay her office couldn’t use at trial.
Los Angeles County officials initially ruled Moore’s death an accident. It was reopened after Moore’s family, friends and activists expressed outrage.
A subsequent homicide investigation led police to propose criminal charges, but Lacey declined to file anything, citing insufficient evidence.
Speaking Thursday, Lacey said she and her staff got “the break we needed” when Buck allegedly injected a 37-year-old man with methamphetamine on Sept. 11.
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The man overdosed but survived.
His cooperation gave authorities what they needed to see a clear path to proving the case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.
“We have done, and we will continue to do everything legally possible to put this depraved sexual predator away,” Lacey said, dismissing the suggestion Buck’s political influence ever played a role in the investigation.
Buck has been the subject of intense scrutiny that increased exponentially when another black man died in his apartment earlier this year, 18 months after Moore’s passing.
The second man, 55-year-old Timothy Dean, died from an accidental meth overdose in the same second-story unit in January.
According to the county coroner, Buck claimed Dean was exhibiting “bizarre behavior” before his death and at one point used a piece of clothing to fashion a noose around his neck.
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The autopsy report said Buck reported waiting 15 minutes to summon paramedics after Dean was found to be unresponsive.
Buck’s lawyer disputed the timeline.
“We have a different scenario,” lawyer Seymour Amster previously told the Daily News. “First of all, my client did not have a clock timing whether it was 15 minutes or not.”
Amster claimed Buck was actually in another room, taking a shower, when Timothy Dean, 55, allegedly fell unconscious in the predawn hours of Jan. 7.
“He finds Timothy in a state of being unresponsive in the living room. He doesn’t wait to call 911. He calls, and as he’s on the phone, he’s getting instructions to perform CPR,” Amster said.
Federal authorities have not charged Buck over Dean’s death and referred to him as Victim #1 in an affidavit released Thursday.
Investigators recovered three syringes, two glass pipes and multiple glass vials from the apartment after Dean’s death. Evidence of meth use was found on one of the pipes, the coroner report said.
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Moore’s autopsy report also included disturbing details.
It said investigators found a notebook in his belongings in which Moore “indicated using intravenous drugs with Edward Buck in the past.”
“The decedent was laying nude on a mattress in the living room with a male pornography movie playing on the television,” the autopsy report previously obtained by The News said.
“Police located multiple sex toys, multiple syringes and clear plastic bags with suspected methamphetamine in a tool box roll cabinet in the living room,” it said.
“Multiple syringes with brown residue, scale, lighters, straw with possible white residue, glass pipes with residue and burn marks, plastic bags with white powdery resident and a clear plastic bag with crystal-like substance was located in drawers of the toll box roll-cabinet in the living room,” it said.
Before filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Buck in February, Moore’s mom, LaTisha Nixon, voiced concern that Buck’s political clout and her son’s race and relative lack of influence allowed Buck to avoid arrest.
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The Los Angeles Times previously reported that a journal found in Moore’s belongings also claimed Buck introduced him to intravenous meth use.
“I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” Moore reportedly wrote. “Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”
Story cited here.