Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic Party political donor, was convicted earlier this week on multiple charges stemming from the deaths of two Black men who overdosed in his apartment in West Hollywood, California, within a span of 18 months.
Buck, 66, was charged with nine felony counts, including using his apartment for the purpose of distributing narcotics, enticement to cross state lines to engage in prostitution, and two county of distribution of controlled substances — in this case, methamphetamine — resulting in death.
Two men, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, and 55-year-old Timothy Dean, were found dead from overdoses in Buck’s apartment in two separate incidents that occurred in July 2017 and January 2019, respectively. But it wasn’t until September 2019, after a third Black man, who had lived in Buck’s apartment for close to two months, nearly died of a similar overdose that Buck was charged.
On Tuesday, a Los Angeles jury found Buck guilty on all nine charges. The two counts of distribution of methamphetamine each carry a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
The jury’s verdict followed a two-week-long trial focusing on testimony from men hired by Buck to show off their bodies in underwear and get high on crystal meth and GHB. After injecting them with high doses of meth, he would then film sexual encounters with the men, with some victims claiming he’d sodomize them with objects or putting sex toys around their genitals or clamps on their nipples.
Excerpts from some of those graphic videos were shown in court during his trial. Prosecutors characterized Buck’s actions as a “sexual fetish.”
During the trial, some of Buck’s surviving victims testified that they had been homeless, struggling with drug addiction, or engaging in survival sex work when propositioned by Buck to come over his house and get high.
He would then pay them extra when they’d let him inject them with meth, in the hope that they’d lose control and become sexually uninhibited. Videos shown at trial showed Buck touching the men sexually when they were asleep or unconscious, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The delay in prosecuting Buck for these various crimes led Los Angeles-area activists to condemn law enforcement for not pursuing the wealthy Democratic donor and political activist sooner. To this day, many criticize that Buck was not charged with murder for his role in the deaths of Moore and Dean.
Buck, who previously ran for West Hollywood’s City Council, made more than $500,000 in campaign donations to federal, state, and local officials, with almost all going to Democrats. Recipients included high-profile politicians like former President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Adam Schiff (Calif.), and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Several Democrats later returned Buck’s campaign donations after he was charged.
Political commentator and Los Angeles County Democratic committeemember Jasmyn Cannick, who organized protests calling for Buck to be brought to justice and has served as a spokesperson for the families of some of Buck’s victims, criticized members of her own party, as well as the media, for failing to call out or shine a light on Buck’s exploitation of Black men.
“Two men have died. Countless others almost died. It is such a humongous relief to know that Ed Buck will never be on the streets again,” Cannick said during an appearance on Fox News Primetime.
“I am an elected member of the Democratic Party, I am so disappointed in my party: they have had very little to say about this whole entire ordeal over past 4 years — [with] some wanting to give Ed Buck the benefit of the doubt [and] it’s embarrassing,” Cannick added.
She said Buck preyed on his victims’ vulnerability, such as their lack of stable housing or struggles with addiction.
“Buck was only able to do what he did because of our homelessness crisis,” Cannick said. “People felt like they had to play Russian roulette with their life with this person to get money to have food for a place to sleep for the night that wasn’t outside.”
Carrick told the Los Angeles Times she was grateful that federal authorities took victims seriously in a way that local prosecutors did not.
“Our lives matter, our community matters, and just because someone is unhoused, an addict, may be a survival sex worker, or an escort, or HIV positive does not mean their lives don’t matter and we should look the other way when they show up dead in a white Democratic donor’s home,” she said.
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