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Democratic donor Ed Buck indicted in second overdose death at West Hollywood home

Ed Buck appears in court on state drug charges
Democratic Party donor Ed Buck appears in court on charges of running a drug den in his West Hollywood apartment.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Just weeks after he was arrested on state drug charges, Ed Buck was indicted Wednesday on federal charges in connection with a second overdose death at his West Hollywood home, according to court records.

Buck, a wealthy Democratic donor who was charged in federal court in September with providing the methamphetamine that led to the 2017 overdose death of Gemmel Moore, was indicted Wednesday in connection with the January 2019 death of Timothy Dean, court records show. He also faces three additional counts of distributing methamphetamine.

Activists have long called on local prosecutors to take action against Buck, 65, and heavily criticized Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey when she declined to bring homicide charges against Buck in connection with Moore’s death last year. Many have argued that Buck’s status and privilege, coupled with the fact that his purported victims were largely sex workers or homeless, had insulated him from prosecution.

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Federal prosecutors harped on that issue in the indictment made public Wednesday, accusing Buck of “targeting vulnerable individuals who were destitute, homeless and/or struggled with drug addiction, in order to exploit the relative wealth and power imbalance between them.” According to the indictment, Buck met many of his victims on the dating website Adam4Adam, but he also sometimes used a “recruiter” who “scouted men” on his behalf. The recruiter was not identified or described further in the court documents.

If convicted in either Moore’s or Dean’s deaths, Buck faces a minimum of 20 years in federal prison. Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, has repeatedly declined requests for comment.

“We are extremely happy about these charges. We are all sorry that Timothy Dean had to lose his life,” said Jasmyne Cannick, one of the most prominent activists in the push for Buck’s arrest. “The federal prosecutors finally delivered what the [Los Angeles County] district attorney could not…. It is extremely gratifying after all these years to see this.”

“This ordeal has been painful for so many,” said Walter Harris, a longtime friend of Dean. “Although I’m happy justice has found its way through all the red tape, delays and uneven landscape of the law, it’s with a heavy heart because our friend and brother and two mothers’ sons are not here with us. So it’s hard to be really happy.”

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Dean’s sister, Joann Campbell, said in a statement that the family was overjoyed by the news. “We all are crying, but with joy. A special thank you to Jasmyne and her team. Thank you for fighting for Tim and being our eyes and ears always,” she said.

Campbell went on to thank the detectives who worked the case, saying: “We know it was difficult dealing with us pressing you, the detectives, to work harder. We appreciate their hard work.”

Buck has been under scrutiny since July 2017, when sheriff’s deputies responded to his apartment and found Moore’s body. The 26-year-old’s death was ruled accidental, but activists and Moore’s family immediately began to pressure the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to take a longer look at the incident. Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, accused Buck of forcing her son, an escort who had been homeless, to do drugs against his will. In a journal, Moore also accused Buck of getting him hooked on crystal meth in the first place.

Lacey’s office declined to charge Buck with manslaughter or drug charges in connection with Moore’s death, citing insufficient evidence and an “inadmissible search and seizure,” records show. Law enforcement leaders have never explained what, if anything, illegal was done by responding sheriff’s deputies on the night of Moore’s death.

The Sheriff’s Department has declined to answer questions about the issue.

Timothy Dean
Timothy Dean, 55, was found dead in Ed Buck’s West Hollywood home in January, less than two years after another man died of an overdose in Buck’s apartment.
(Mark Chambers)

Buck became a target of law enforcement again in early 2019 when Dean, a 55-year-old fashion consultant and avid basketball player, died of a drug overdose at his home. The case prompted a second homicide investigation from the Sheriff’s Department. Lacey has said Buck remains a “suspect” in both Moore’s and Dean’s deaths but charged him only with operating a drug den and battery after his arrest last month.

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Court documents made public in September revealed Buck had engaged in dangerous sexual fetishes for years. Prosecutors accused him of manipulating homeless men and sex workers to do drugs for his pleasure, often at risk to their own safety. Several claimed Buck injected them while they were sleeping, and two described incidents that amounted to allegations of sexual misconduct, according to court records.

At least four men came forward and told Sheriff’s Department investigators about Buck’s habits between March and May of this year, according to the federal criminal complaint charging Buck in Moore’s death. Two of them accused Buck of injecting them with drugs against their will. Given the fact that two men had already died at Buck’s home and law enforcement was aware of his alleged dangerous behavior, legal experts have questioned why Lacey’s office did not seek to charge him with a lesser drug offense before September.

“After two deaths … I don’t think there’s any doubt that there was probably a time before this week for them to go forward on these charges,” former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson told The Times last week.

Buck was arrested Sept. 17, less than a week after a man identified in court papers only as “Joe Doe” escaped his home while fearing he was suffering the effects of a drug overdose. The man had been living with Buck for at least five weeks, and during that time they had sex or used drugs virtually every day, according to federal court records.

Buck tried to stop the man from seeking medical attention, prosecutors have alleged.


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