Democratic donor charged with distributing drug resulting in death of man

by Reuters
Thursday, 19 September 2019 22:58 GMT

(Adds comment from U.S. Attorney)

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Democratic Party donor Ed Buck was charged in federal court in Los Angeles with drug distribution resulting in the death of a 26-year-old man, officials said on Thursday following his arrest on separate charges in state court.

The man, Gemmel Moore, died of a methamphetamine overdose at Buck's West Hollywood apartment in July 2017, prosecutors said in court papers. Another man, identified in media reports as 55-year-old Timothy Dean, died of an overdose at Buck's apartment in January 2019.

Buck donated to former President Barack Obama and to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and is a well-known activist who led a successful effort to force an Arizona governor out of office in the 1980s.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of the federal meth distribution charge which was filed late on Wednesday, in connection with the death of Moore, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

Buck's attorney Seymour Amster could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

The 65-year-old Buck was expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles later on Thursday, and prosecutors said they would seek to have a judge order that he continue to be held in jail while he awaits trial.

"We are seeking detention because we believe that he poses a significant risk to public safety," U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna said at a news conference.

Hanna added that the victims in the case were homeless men vulnerable to exploitation or "other disadvantaged individuals."

Buck was arrested on Tuesday after a 37-year-old man, whose name has not been released, overdosed at his home earlier this month and survived the incident, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

He was charged in state court with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house.

Buck appeared in criminal court in Los Angeles on Thursday in connection with the state charges.

"We will fight this case vigorously," Amster, his lawyer, told reporters after that hearing, according to City News Service.

U.S. Representative Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, in a statement on Wednesday noted that the two men who died of overdoses were black and Buck is white. She accused authorities of being slow to arrest him because of indifference over the deaths of gay black men.

Hanna said law enforcement worked "very hard on this investigation" and that "a lot of time and effort has gone into this case to see that justice is done."

Buck continued to solicit men for sex, promising to pay them with money or drugs, even after the second overdose death at his apartment in January, federal prosecutors said in court papers.

Aside from the two men who died of overdoses, investigators have identified at least nine other victims who said Buck administered or encouraged them to take narcotics and be paid for sexual services, Hanna said. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)

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