Disgraced Democratic donor Ed Buck will likely die in prison after being found guilty on charges of injecting men with methamphetamine in exchange for sex, leading to two deaths.
On Tuesday (27 July) a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the wealthy political activist of all nine felony counts, including maintaining a drug den, enticement to cross state lines to engage in prostitution, and distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death. He now faces between 20 years to life in federal prison.
The verdict came exactly four years after one of Buck’s victims, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, was found dead of an overdose in Buck’s Hollywood apartment.
“It was a tremendous honour to be able to vindicate the rights of the victims in the case,” assistant US attorney Chelsea Norell said.
According to a 2019 indictment, Buck, 66, “engaged in a pattern of soliciting men to consume drugs that Buck provided and perform sexual acts at Buck’s apartment” – a practice known as party and play.
According to prosecutors, Buck typically targeted men who were destitute, homeless or struggling with drug addiction, soliciting them via a recruiter who trawled social media and gay dating sites.
“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,” prosecutors said in a statement.
The jury was reportedly shaken by the mountain of harrowing evidence against Buck, which included tens of thousands of texts, voice mails, and videos that laid out his rampant drug use and his fetish for injecting Black men with hard drugs and then having sex with them, often when they were too high to consent.
In one video, “Ed Buck told a Black man to flare his nostrils and open his eyes really wide while facing the camera and blowing smoke from a meth pipe”, said journalist and Advocate contributor Jasmyne Cannick.
She said some of the footage showed Buck referring to the men as the “N” word and other racist terms.
“Ed Buck is Jeffrey Dahmer 2.0,” Cannick said, referencing the cannibalistic serial killer who often targeted fellow gay men.
Wealth, race and political ties helped Ed Buck evade justice, campaigners say
Black LGBT+ activists in California had been campaigning for justice for years, claiming Buck escaped criminal charges for years because of his wealth, race, and political ties. The prominent businessman has given more than $500,000 to mostly Democratic politicians and causes since 2000.
When a Los Angeles County district attorney declined to charge Buck in 2018, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, campaigners began rallying outside the businessman’s home to pressure authorities to act.
Even after Timothy Dean, 55, died 18 months later, it took an additional nine months and the near-death of another overdose victim before Buck was finally arrested in September 2019.
“I know this has been an arduous, lengthy and difficult process,” said US district judge Christine A Snyder to jurors after she read the verdict, acknowledging the long struggle for justice.
Surviving victim Dane Brown (second from left), Gemmel Moore’s mother LaTisha Nixon (middle), and friends and family of the victims rejoice in the guilty verdict for Ed Buck (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times/Getty)
Buck pled not guilty to all charges against him. His defence team, led by former OJ Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden, claimed that neither fatal overdose victim died from meth and that many of the alleged victims were drug addicts.
Much of their argument reportedly centred on shaming the victims, claiming their drug use and sex work and their HIV-positive status were reasons to disbelieve them.
The jury deliberated for more than four hours after a two-week trial before finding him guilty of all charges. Speaking after the judgement on the four-year anniversary of her son’s death, Moore’s mother, Latisha Nixon, said the result was bittersweet.
“But we got victory today,” she told KCBS outside the courthouse.
Timothy Dean’s sister Joyce Jackson thanked her supporters. “Finally, Ed Buck will never harm anyone else, and I thank God for that,” she said.