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Ed Buck sentenced to 30 years in drug overdose deaths of Black gay men

“Buck used his money and privilege to exploit his victims, who were unhoused, destitute, and/or struggling with addiction”

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United States Court House in downtown Los Angeles (Photo by Jasmyne Cannick)

LOS ANGELES – U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder on Thursday sentenced former West Hollywood resident and LGBTQ+ activist Ed Buck, 67, to 30 years in a federal prison for supplying the methamphetamine that killed two gay Black men at his Laurel Avenue flat.

“Buck used his money and privilege to exploit the wealth and power imbalances between himself and his victims, who were unhoused, destitute, and/or struggling with addiction,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Norell said in court documents filed in the case. “He spent thousands of dollars on drugs and party and play sessions that destroyed lives and bred insidious addictions.”

Buck — who had donated more than $500,000 to mostly Democratic causes and served in 2016 as one of California’s Electoral College members, along with activism on LGBTQ+ issues, had seemingly escaped justice until local activists including journalist Jasmyne Cannick, a longtime community activist, were able to get the federal case initiated, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. The investigation was also conducted with the support of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Then L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey had declined to prosecute Buck at first citing a lack of evidence.

Barely four and a half hours after being handed his case for deliberations, a federal grand jury last July convicted Buck on the nine-count indictment of charges he supplied the methamphetamine that killed Gemmel Moore in 2017 and Timothy Dean in 2019 during ‘party-and-play’ encounters at his flat.

The verdict concluded a two-week trial that featured harrowing testimony of Buck’s accusers and victims which was shocking. Prosecutor’s use of Buck’s seized videos offered jurors a disturbingly graphic look at the chilling indifference displayed by Buck as he victimized those unfortunate to enter his flat.

Buck would solicit his victims on social media platforms, including Grinder, and on Adam4Adam, a gay hook-up site. Buck’s profile solicited men who shared his underwear fetish and wanted to “party and play.” His profile also contained a ‘Rose’ emoji which symbolized that he was generous or in plain terms, willing to pay cash for his “party and play.”

Jurors heard testimony from several of the Black men victimized that Buck’s preference was to personally inject victims, and he pressured or incentivized victims to let him do so, sometimes offering large cash bonuses to coerce a victim to agree to an injection or additional injections. At other times, Buck simply injected victims while they were unconscious.

“I know this has been an arduous, lengthy and difficult process,” U.S. District Judge Christine A. Snyder told jurors after she read the verdict.

An acquittal motion denied by Judge Snyder last week had argued that the only evidence that Buck distributed methamphetamine and other drugs at his apartment was bolstered by “the testimony of a parade of financially motivated houseless individuals” and drug addicts and should not have been believed, defense attorneys said.

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