The criminal trial against a wealthy and white Democratic donor who had two Black men die from drug overdoses within 18 months of each other at his California home has officially begun.
Ed Buck is accused of supplying the men with drugs in exchange for sex in West Hollywood. At least one other Black man also overdosed in Buck’s home, but that unidentified man survived.
Opening statements were scheduled to begin in the downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse on Wednesday, one day after the 12 jurors selected to serve on the trial were sworn in.
Buck, 66, was arrested in September 2019 after a third man overdosed in his home. He was charged with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house. A bail motion from the Los Angeles district attorney’s office called Buck “a violent, dangerous sexual predator” who “mainly preys on men made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness.”
According to the documents, Buck administered “dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims” and is “a predator with no regard for human life.”
After initially only facing a possible maximum sentence of five years and eight months in state prison, Buck later had charges of running a drug den and paying people to travel for sex tacked on to the existing charges for a total of nine felony counts. If he is convicted, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
According to The Advocate, Buck has a “fetish for shooting drugs into black men he picks up off the street or on hookup site.”
There are reportedly at least 10 other victims.
At the time of Buck’s arrest, California Congresswoman Karen Bass was incredulous that he had not been arrested and charged after the first fatal overdose in 2017. That was when a 26-year-old Black man named Gemmel Moore died in Buck’s home.
The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that Moore wrote in a journal a few months before he died that he was using drugs and “Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”
On July 4, 23 days before Moore died, an escort reported Buck to authorities for drugging Black men. However, nothing was immediately done.
After Moore died, Buck’s apartment was searched. Law enforcement allegedly “found the following items in Buck’s two-bedroom apartment: 24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, clear plastic bags with white powdery residue and a clear plastic bag with a ‘piece of crystal-like substance.’”
Timothy Dean, 55, died 18 months later of a drug overdose in Buck’s home on Jan. 7, 2019.
The Daily Beast reported at the time that Dean warned other people to say away from Buck. He reportedly once said, “Don’t go in that house because you might never come back.” When Moore was found dead, Dean reportedly said Buck was the “devil” and that “This might be it for Ed Buck.”
It’s not clear why Dean went to Buck’s home the night he died.
Not to be deterred, Buck just one month later was seen out in public with another Black man. It was not immediately clear if that other Black man was the same person who later survived an overdose in Buck’s home.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that it took a third Black gay man to be attacked and almost die to finally dissolve the unconscionable apathy that has allowed Ed Buck, a racist sexual predator, to roam free,” Bass said after Buck was arrested. “Everyone knew that he preyed on young Black men — two died in his apartment. The inaction in response had a message was loud and clear: Black gay lives obviously didn’t matter.”
Now-former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is a Black woman, was criticized for not charging Buck earlier. Lacy, in turn, deflected the blame, choosing instead to point to mistakes she claims were made by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“They noticed around Mr. Moore’s body that there was a red toolbox,” Lacey said at a political club event in November 2019. “And they wanted to search that toolbox for evidence. A coroner’s investigator gave them information that turned out to be incorrect.”
Lacey cited “inadmissible search and seizure,” which, according to her, “presented a challenge.”
Days after Moore’s death, his mother, LaTisha Nixon, said had repeatedly asked to no avail for Lacey to do her job.
“I didn’t ask for no special favors. I just asked for her to do her job — that was it,” Nixon said in a video statement posted to social media. “Everything was in front of her. We tried to deliver ballots. They treated us like we were criminals. Jackie Lacey wouldn’t let us in the office — nothing.”
Nixon ultimately filed a lawsuit against Buck and Lacey “for their violation of Gemmel Moore’s civil rights in their race-based refusal to prosecute Ed Buck, which ultimately resulted in the Jan. 7, 2019 death of Timothy Dean under almost identical circumstances that should and could have been prevented,” according to a press release.
Lacey went on to lose her bid for re-election in November.
Buck, a longtime political donor, has contributed at least tens of thousands of dollars over the years to national Democrats such as the aforementioned Bass, Ted Lieu, Kyrsten Sinema, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to campaign finance website Open Secrets.
Buck’s trial is expected to last up to 10 days. He is being defended by Christopher Darden, the former Los Angeles prosecutor who famously was on the losing side of O.J. Simpson‘s acquittal for the double murder of his estranged wife and her male friend in 1994.