A wealthy and well-connected white California Democrat who for years preyed on and took advantage of desperate men of color was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison on Thursday.
Ed Buck, 67, was convicted on two counts of distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, four counts of distribution of methamphetamine, one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises, and two counts of enticement to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution in July 2021.
Citing Buck’s age, his defense attorneys said that even 25 years of imprisonment would have been the “functional equivalent of a life sentence.”
The charges in that case stemmed from the overdose deaths of two Black men, nearly two years apart, in the defendant’s often raucous and drug-filled West Hollywood apartment just off Laurel Canyon. On July 27, 2017, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found dead from a methamphetamine overdose. Some 18 months later, on Jan. 7, 2019, 55-year-old Timothy Dean died from a methamphetamine overdose.
Neither of those deaths, however, initially resulted in charges.
Buck was only arrested in September 2019 after a third man overdosed at his home. The 37-year-old in that incident survived.
After years of criticism, condemnation, and community pressure aimed at local law enforcement’s laidback attitude to the spate of congruous Black deaths at Buck’s residence, federal law enforcement in Los Angeles charged the prominent progressive activist and Democratic Party donor with a slate of charges, arguing in a bail motion that he was “a predator with no regard for human life” who gave his victims “dangerously large doses of narcotics.”
A superseding indictment filed nearly a year later added additional charges and laid out a theory of the case rife with narratives of sex, race, class, money, and power. Imbalances between the defendant and his victims, prosecutors said, were key to decoding Buck’s motivation.
Evidence and witness testimony presented during trial supported the government’s claim that Buck had a sexual fetish for Black men. But that was undergirded by a desire for something a bit more sinister. Buck also enjoyed so-called “party and play” sessions where he would pay down-on-their-luck, drug-addicted, and homeless men to use as many drugs–often methamphetamine–as they could stand before they died.
“He exploited the wealth and power balance between them by offering his victims money to use drugs and to let Buck inject them with narcotics,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release after his conviction. “Once the men were at his apartment, Buck prepared syringes containing methamphetamine, sometimes personally injecting the victims with or without their consent. Buck also injected victims with more narcotics than they expected and sometimes injected victims while they were unconscious.”
The DOJ welcomed the sentencing in a Thursday press release.
“This defendant preyed upon vulnerable victims – men who were drug-dependent and often without homes – to feed an obsession that led to death and misery,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Tracy L. Wilkison said. “Mr. Buck continues to pose a clear danger to society, as evidenced by him continuing to lure men to his apartment, even after he killed two men with lethal methamphetamine injections. The sentence imposed today will protect other potential victims and hopefully will bring some solace to the families of two men who needlessly died in Mr. Buck’s apartment.”
In a sentencing memorandum, the government requested a substantially higher sentence, asking for two sentences of life imprisonment plus 120 years in prison plus restitution, fines and fees. Buck’s defense, on the other hand, requested a much lower sentence below federal sentencing guidelines.
(Screenshot via KCBS-TV)
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