A federal grand jury in California has indicted wealthy Democratic megadonor Ed Buck on drug charges in connection with two overdose deaths at his West Hollywood apartment.
The indictment returned Wednesday charges Buck with distributing methamphetamine resulting in the deaths of Timothy Dean in January and Gemmel Moore in 2017. Buck had previously been charged in Moore’s death after his arrest last month.
Federal prosecutors said Buck, 65, preyed on vulnerable gay black men and pressured them to let him inject them with drugs as part of a sexual ritual.
Buck also is charged with providing meth to three more men, including one who overdosed twice in a week last month before escaping Buck’s home to get help and another man who said Buck threatened him with a power saw in December if he didn’t leave his apartment
Family members of the victims had criticized local prosecutors for not charging Buck in the deaths. Moore’s mother and her supporters have said Buck got favorable treatment because of his status and reputation and that the victims were ignored because they were gay black men, drug users and often sex workers.
“If white gay men had been dying in a black man’s house or anybody’s house, rather, this case would have been taken a lot more seriously,” said Jasmyne Cannick, a communications strategist who spearheaded the effort to get justice for Moore. “Ed Buck knew who he was preying on, and he knew that people would not care. Or he thought that people would not care.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the case after Dean’s death Jan. 7. In July, the U.S. attorney’s office took the case after sheriff’s detectives approached a federal task force investigating opioid overdoses.
Buck was arrested Sept. 17 and hit with state charges of operating a drug house. Two days later, federal prosecutors charged him with distributing methamphetamine resulting in Moore’s death.
The federal charges bring a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years if Buck is convicted. A defense lawyer has previously said Buck, 65, denies a role in both deaths.
Buck has donated tens of thousands of dollars to California candidates, including Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and is well known in LGBTQ political circles. According to federal records, Buck contributed more than $500,000 to Democratic groups, including $1,500 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and $2,950 to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Buck gained fame by leading a 1987 campaign to recall Republican Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, who was ultimately convicted in an impeachment trial and kicked out of office.
Buck had been a Republican but said he switched party affiliation to Democrat because he felt the GOP was intolerant toward the gay community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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