In a case which has received national attention for almost three years, a federal judge sentenced Ed Buck, a fixture in West Hollywood’s political and cultural scene, to 30 years in prison. A jury convicted Buck of nine counts relating to drug distribution, resulting in two deaths, and prostitution in July 2021.
Buck, 67, moved to California in 1991, settling into a three-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood. He became active in various causes, such as AIDS awareness (Buck was openly gay), animal rights, and Democratic party issues.
He was a frequent donor to Democratic politicians; he made close to $500,000 in donations over the years.
He also actively solicited gay men, mostly black, on gay dating websites (Buck is white). Over the years, Buck himself became a drug addict. He would frequently solicit young black men – homeless, addicted, forced to survive on subsistence level sex work – to come to his apartment for “party and play” sessions. Buck would supply them with drugs and pay them for sex.
It was commonly known that “party and play” sessions referred to Buck supplying his victims with drugs or injecting them with drugs himself and having sex with them while they were unconscious or motionless.
Buck would sometimes inject additional drugs into his victims while they were unconscious or refuse to pay them unless they took more doses.
The First Death Occurs
Gemmel Moore, 26, flew to Los Angeles from Texas on July 27, 2017. Buck paid for his airline ticket. Later that day, a 911 call was made to the police. Sheriff’s deputies responded. Buck told them that Moore had overdosed on methamphetamine. Coroner investigators found Moore lying on a mattress, naked except for his socks. Porn was playing on a television; syringes, pipes, sex toys, and methamphetamine were found in the apartment.
Unfortunately, at that time, overdose deaths from methamphetamine were not uncommon in Los Angeles. Moore’s death was initially ruled accidental, and the authorities did not file charges against Buck.
18 Months Later, the Second Death Occurs
Timothy Dean, 55, was a former basketball player who worked as a fashion consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue. He went to Buck’s apartment on January 7, 2019. One hour later, he had overdosed. Buck called 911. Before any responders arrived, Buck cleaned up Dean’s blood and vomit. He also tossed syringes and pipes out a window.
Like Moore 18 months earlier, responders found Dean naked but for his underwear and on a mattress. And just as 18 months ago, the police did not charge Buck. One day before the first anniversary of Moore’s death, the Los Angeles District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, announced the District Attorney’s office would not be charging Buck with any crimes relating to the deaths of Moore or Dean.
A Third Victim Comes to Light
Later that year, at 5:20 am on September 11, a man went into a gas station three blocks from Buck’s apartment. He told the gas station owner he thought he was having a heart attack. The owner called 911.
The man, Dane Brown, told the responding police and medics that Buck had injected methamphetamine into him. Brown wanted an ambulance, but Dean refused.
On September 17, the police raided Buck’s apartment and arrested him.
The Case Against Buck
The federal grand jury in the United States District for the Central District of California indicted Buck. The grand jury charged Buck with nine felony offenses (in a superseding indictment; the original indictment had five counts):
- Two counts of distributing methamphetamine resulting in death
- Four counts of distribution of methamphetamine
- Two counts of enticement to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution
- One count of maintaining drug-involved premises
Testimony at the nine-day trial showed Buck would meet gay men through social media and gay dating and escort sites. He also paid men he had past relations with to refer additional men to him.
The evidence showed he paid for Moore’s airline ticket from Texas to Los Angeles. There was also another victim from Iowa for whom Buck paid his airfare to Los Angeles.
Besides methamphetamine, Buck also plied victims with GHB, also known as the “date rape” drug, and clonazepam. He also would put sedatives in drinks and injections to ensure his victims would fall asleep.
The government alleged that the conduct detailed in the indictment occurred between 2011 and September 2019. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office also indicted Buck in September 2019. However, the state and federal prosecutors agreed that the federal prosecutors would try their case first.
His attorney told District Court Judge Christina Snyder that Buck’s crimes were attributed to his drug addiction at his sentencing. The attorney also made (uncorroborated) allegations that Buck’s father and several Catholic priests sexually abused Buck as a child.
The attorney requested that Buck be sentenced to 10 years in jail. That would let him get out of prison and live as a free man for some time before he dies or becomes disabled or impaired.
The prosecution requested the judge to sentence Buck to life imprisonment. The prosecution argued that many of Buck’s victims were marginalized members of society – homeless, unemployed, drug-addicted. They also pointed out to the judge Buck continued to give drugs to victims and engage in the “party and play” behavior after the death of Moore and Dean.
Judge Snyder sentenced Buck to 30 years in prison.