Ed Buck, the wealthy white California Democratic donor who was convicted on charges after he injected gay men with methamphetamine leading to two deaths and other overdoses, has asked a federal judge to overrule the jury's guilty verdicts.
On Monday in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Christine A. Snyder will hear a motion for judgment of acquittal.
The motion rests on the claim that the evidence at trial was insufficient for a conviction. In other words, the defendant argues that no reasonable jury could possibly find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant can ask a judge to acquit on all of the charges or just some counts.
Attorneys for Ed Buck will argue that 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, who died on the floor in Buck's West Hollywood apartment in 2017 of a methamphetamine overdose, died of AIDS. They will also argue that 55-year-old Timothy Dean who also died on the floor in Buck's apartment of an overdose in 2019, died of severe coronary artery disease. Additional arguments include that Buck was "kink-shamed" when prosecutors showed images and videos of his "sexual fetishes" and that prosecutors elicited testimony from a "parade of financially-motivated houseless individuals." Nearly all of the men who testified against Ed Buck and appeared in various images and videos shown to the jury were Black and homeless.
Buck's attorneys will argue that the jury's verdict in the trial is not sufficiently supported by evidence.
Hussain Turk, co-counsel for the families of Moore and Dean and several of Buck's surviving victims said of the motion, "I'm confident that it won't be granted, and that this will proceed to sentencing," Hussain Turk, co-counsel for the families of Moore and Dean and several of Buck's surviving victims tells The Advocate of the motion. "I'm excited for the sentencing phase. But I'm also mindful of the fact that that criminalizing addiction is part of the problem in this equation and that I hope that we can have a continued conversation about some of the other issues in this case in a broader context as it applies to the gay community."
In July 2021, after a jury deliberated for more than four hours following a two-week trial, Ed Buck, 66, was found guilty of all nine felony counts in federal court. The verdict came exactly four years after Moore's death.
After his conviction, Buck switched attorneys -- the initial two Black men, including Chris Darden, who was a prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case -- in favor of Harvey Weinstein's defense attorney Mark Werksman.
Buck's sentencing, which hinges on the outcome of Monday's hearing, is scheduled for Apr. 4.
If Buck's motion for judgment acquittal is denied, prosecutors have recommended life in prison for counts one and two -- providing the drugs that killed Moore and Dean. They've also recommended a total 120 years for counts through through nine -- distributing drugs, running a drug den and enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution. Prosecutors also want Buck to pay each victim approximately $52,000 in restitution and a $400,000 fine.
Dane Brown testified during the trial that he had overdosed in Buck's apartment twice in one week in September 2019. Brown said he had been living in a hotel on Skid Row when he met Buck on Adam4Adam, a free online gay dating site that some also use for escorting work.
"You know, that's that's something that I wasn't expecting," Brown tells The Advocate of the possibility of restitution. "And you know, if everything does go through, I'm definitely going to use it for putting some positivity in the world and putting positivity in my life to help me bring myself up a little bit more as far as being successful."
In addition to the criminal case, Buck is facing two wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. Prosecutors estimate his net worth to be at least $4 million.
LaTisha Nixon, Moore's mother says, "I am not nervous at all, I have faith in God and I know that justice is going to prevail."
When asked about Buck's upcoming sentencing date she says that she's very excited.
"I am ready to close that chapter, it's been a long time -- almost five years. I am ready to close that chapter so that I can put it behind me. I haven't been able to grieve properly because this has been unfinished."
"I honestly feel like the hearing is a waste of time," Brown adds. "The proof was given at court. Everything he did was shown and everyone who was a part of it--witnesses and victims--made their case. He is wasting his time trying to finagle the court system. I feel like the motion is going to be denied and we're going to move forward with sentencing."
On July 27, 2021, Ed Buck was found guilty in federal court of two counts of distributing methamphetamine that resulted in the death, four counts of distributing methamphetamine, one count of maintaining a drug premises, and two counts of enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution.
Some of the evidence presented to the jury included dozens of photos and videos from a library of over 2,400 pieces of media showing Ed Buck torturing his victims, pressuring them to smoke and inject meth, sexually assaulting his victims while they were unconscious, and more. The jury was also presented with DNA evidence, dozens of Buck's text messages, and financial records.
Eight surviving victims testified during the one week trial.
It took the jury less than four hours to deliberate.
The case was handled by federal prosecutors after former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey failed to act on information about Buck from his victims and Moore and Dean's family members. Lacey was not re-elected in 2020.
Deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean
26-year-old Gemmel Moore died of a crystal meth overdose on July 27, 2017, in Ed Buck's West Hollywood apartment. At the time, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies treated Moore's death like a run-of-the-mill overdose. Buck had flown Moore into Los Angeles earlier that day from Houston and told deputies he didn't know what happened to Moore.
Following several articles from this journalist questioning Moore's death, numerous Black men contacted her to share their story about the white man in West Hollywood who they said had a Tuskegee-like fetish for Black men in white underwear, who, for his own sexual gratification, he would inject with crystal meth. Almost all of the men were homeless.
After excerpts of Gemmel Moore's diary were published where Moore accused Buck of getting him addicted to meth, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department opened a homicide investigation. A year later, in July 2018, the district attorney declined to file any changes against Buck for Moore's death.
55-year-old Timothy Dean, fashion stylist and avid basketball player, was found dead of a meth overdose on Buck's apartment floor six months later in January 2019.
In August of 2019, another man almost died of an overdose but managed to get out of the apartment and signal for help. This unnamed man was able to testify to the police.
Buck was arrested the following month.
Democratic Political Donor
Buck has given over $500,000 in political donations over a number of years. Some of his largest donations were made to California Congressmember Ted Lieu who has received at least $25,600. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who is currently running for mayor of Los Angeles, received $18,400. LA City Councilmember Kevin de Leon who is also running for mayor took $26,500. Congressmember Karen Bass received $250 and as soon as she found out about Moore's death, returned it to his family the next day. Bass is also running for mayor in Los Angeles.
Bass told a group of supporters at a fundraiser in Los Angeles last December, "I will never forget that day in the makeup room," referencing a day both Bass and this reporter were about to go on-air on Fox News. Bass was first told about Buck during that meeting.
"I was so horrified with what that man had done and the fact that he wasn't even arrested with a dead body in his house and drugs and he's not even arrested."
To date, Bass is the only elected official or candidate to turn over Ed Buck's donation in whole to a fund set up to support his victims.
Donation data is drawn from the California secretary of state, the California Civic Data Coalition, the Federal Election Commission, and the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Disclosure: Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning freelance journalist and political strategist. She spent four years investigating Ed Buck and humanizing his victims and her reporting became linked with the progression of the case. Beyond her journalism, she founded Justice for Gemmel and All of Ed Buck's victims to help advocate for his arrest and conviction.