Officials detail drug overdose case against political donor
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gemmel Moore had moved back home with his mother in Texas two years ago and was missing Los Angeles when he texted a photo of syringe in an arm to a wealthy gay man he knew in California.
Ed Buck, an influential political activist more than twice Moore’s age, later replied: “Be here now.”
Buck bought a plane ticket for Moore and had a car pick him up a week later at the airport. By sunset, Moore, 26, would be dead on a mattress on the floor of Buck’s Los Angeles-area home.
Federal prosecutors released new details Thursday as they charged Buck, 65, with distributing methamphetamine resulting in Moore’s death on July 27, 2017.
A criminal complaint and accompanying affidavit detailed multiple allegations that Buck injected men with meth against their wishes during sexual encounters.
The investigation found at least 10 alleged victims, several of whom described in salacious detail Buck’s apparent fetish to pay men to use drugs and have sex, which often took a dark turn and led to several suspected overdoses.
Messages to Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, were not immediately returned.
Even after another man, Timothy Dean, died of an overdose at Buck’s home in January, the Democratic donor continued to solicit men for sex and drug use until last week, when another man who overdosed managed to escape as Buck tried to stop him from leaving, authorities said.
Both men who died were black. Buck, who is white, was not charged for more than two years after Moore’s death, and critics have questioned if wealth, race or political ties influenced the investigation.
Buck has donated tens of thousands of dollars to California candidates, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and is well known in LGBTQ political circles.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is black and charged Buck this week with running a drug house, rejected the notion that there was any favoritism based on campaign donations.
“We were not at all moved by his reputation,” Lacey said.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Buck preyed on homeless and other vulnerable men and is a “serious threat to public safety.”
Authorities said Buck used his position of power to manipulate men into participating in sexual fantasies that involved injecting meth.
Male prostitutes knew Buck’s habit for paying in cash and drugs and some referred to him as Dr. Kevorkian, an apparent reference to Jack Kevorkian, a doctor who went to prison for helping patients end their lives.
On some occasions, when someone refused to inject drugs, Buck plunged the needle in their arm himself, Agent John Mundell of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in an affidavit.
A homeless prostitute recalled two occasions in 2011 when Buck injected him with meth and he lost consciousness. The man, identified in the affidavit as victim 6, said Buck insisted on injecting prostitutes and would reject them without pay if they refused, Mundell wrote.
The federal charge comes two days after the district attorney brought the drug house charges in the case of the man who said he escaped after overdosing there on Sept. 4 and again on Sept. 11.
“The surviving victim’s statements gave us the break we needed,” Lacey said. “We needed someone live, willing to come to court, willing to be cross-examined.”
Buck appeared in both Los Angeles Superior Court and federal court Thursday but was not asked to enter a plea. The federal judge set a detention hearing for Sept. 26. Buck will remain in custody until then.
Buck came under investigation in January after Dean, 55, was found dead of an accidental methamphetamine overdose in his apartment.
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, told investigators a month after her son’s death that he had once told her about Buck. Her son described him as rich and powerful and said Buck held him “against his will and shot him up with drugs,” the affidavit said.
Nixon “is relieved that Ed Buck is no longer on the streets and free to continue harming black men,” her lawyer, Hussain Turk, said Wednesday.