Graphic videos, victims lay bare the horror of Ed Buck’s deadly ‘party and play’ fetish
Carlos was living in a tent beneath a 105 Freeway overpass when a friend told him that a man named Ed Buck would pay him to smoke crystal meth and “prance around in underwear.”
The $200 offer was more than Carlos could refuse. He was struggling to survive in the Devil’s Dip encampment.
“It meant that I would have a place to shower and lay my head and have some food in my mouth for sure,” he testified at Buck’s federal trial.
Buck dispatched an Uber to pick up Carlos and bring him over. With that, Carlos became one of the dozens of young Black men to walk through what prosecutors called the “gates of hell” — the door to Buck’s West Hollywood apartment.
In a ritual that twice turned lethal, Buck, who is white, tested how high he could get the men he hired to “party and play,” Carlos and other witnesses testified.
He usually paid them a few hundred dollars — less if they refused to let him inject meth into their arms, the men told the jury. After hours of partying, they would stagger out the door in what one neighbor watching the daily foot traffic described as a “drunken stupor.”
Wealthy Democratic donor Ed Buck has been under scrutiny ever since a young man died of a drug overdose in his home in 2017. But despite ample evidence of drug activity and dangerous behavior at Buck’s West Hollywood apartment, local authorities did not lob criminal charges at him until last week.
The sordid details of what took place in the apartment are laid bare in hundreds of videos and photos Buck took of the men smoking or injecting meth naked or in the white underwear that he had them try on for his pleasure.
Videos shown at the trial are so graphic that U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder urged prosecutors to be careful how aggressively they present evidence that could traumatize jurors.
“It may well be that we offer counseling to them at the end of the case,” she said.
Buck, 66, whose trial began last week, is charged with supplying the methamphetamine that killed Gemmel Moore, 26, and Timothy Dean, 55. Both were Black men who died of overdoses in Buck’s apartment. Buck is also charged with enticement to travel for prostitution, distribution of methamphetamine and maintaining a drug den. He has pleaded not guilty.
Homicide detectives found about 2,400 videos on Buck’s computers and phones, including about 1,500 documenting his party-and-play sessions, Sgt. Paul Cardella of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department testified.
The squalor of Buck’s apartment belied the apparent wealth of a well-networked player in West Hollywood politics who donated more than $500,000 to mostly Democrats and served in 2016 as one of California’s 55 members of the electoral college.
Hanging on Buck’s living-room wall was a floor-to-ceiling red cloth, backlit to highlight a pattern of flaming skulls. On the floor was a mattress where Buck got the men high on crystal meth — the spot where Moore and Dean died 18 months apart.
Next to the couch, Buck kept a red Craftsman tool chest packed with drugs and paraphernalia: syringes for shooting up, straws for snorting, glass pipes for smoking, photos presented at the trial show. When he was arrested in September 2019, investigators found Narcan, an overdose treatment, in one of the drawers.
Buck collected black skull masks and military-style gas masks. The videos show Carlos and other men wearing the masks while smoking crystal meth as Buck, sometimes seen in a mirror, gave stage directions.
“Stare directly into the camera, flare your nostrils and blow it out slowly,” Buck told a smoker in one video. “Now, if you add wide-open eyes to that, it would be a perfect shot.”
Buck instructed Moore and other men to blow meth smoke into plastic tubing that went into their white underwear. Clouds of it would emerge through the fabric.
In February, a month before his 55th birthday, Timothy Dean took the plunge into a rooftop pool in West Hollywood.
Christopher Darden, a lawyer for Buck, told the jury his client was on trial “for conduct that millions of people engage in.” He dismissed the witnesses against Buck as manipulative escorts and drug abusers who used Buck for his money.
“The evidence is going to show that these grown men made a conscious decision to go to Ed Buck’s apartment for whatever reason,” Darden said in his opening statement.
On Adam4Adam, a gay hook-up site, Buck’s profile solicited men who shared his underwear fetish and wanted to “party and play.”
“So you want to come over and smoke a bowl or two?” he asked one man in a chat on the site. “I’ll get you over here with Uber if we have to.”
Arthur, now 34, recalled meeting Buck on Adam4Adam in 2016 when he was homeless and doing escort work. Buck paid him $300 for their first encounter. Arthur smoked marijuana with Buck but declined harder drugs.
“He kept trying to get me to use crystal, and I kept saying no,” Arthur testified.
The Times is withholding the last names of witnesses who testified about their sexual activity with Buck. Some alleged sexual assault while they were asleep or passed out.
Buck paid Arthur a $100 fee — sent by Zelle, the digital payment service — for referring his friend Carlos to him for more party and play.
“I knew he was in tough times; I figured it was a way to help him out,” Arthur said.
Carlos spent more than seven hours in Buck’s apartment on his first visit in May 2018 — 10 months after Moore’s overdose and eight months before Dean’s. Buck offered Carlos the party drug GHB, which he tried and initially enjoyed. They smoked crystal meth, but Carlos said he refused to inject it.
“I specifically told Ed that I didn’t slam and that was something that I never wanted to do,” Carlos said, using slang for injecting meth.
At the time, Carlos, the father of a baby being raised by his ex-wife, was shuffling from one encampment to another around Hawthorne, West Athens and Gardena. “I had to fight to survive,” he said. “I had to fight to do what I could to eat, to take care of myself, to still be a father.”
He recalled going to Buck’s place about 20 times over six months. In addition to meth and GHB, they sniffed Maximum Impact, an ethyl chloride cleaning solvent. Buck would spray it on a rag, hold it over Carlos’ mouth and watch him inhale, according to Carlos.
“He liked to see me where I was barely able to stand, barely conscious,” Carlos recalled. “He wanted me to be falling around all over the place.” In that state, he explained, “he would be able to do whatever he liked as far as touching and everything of that sort.”
For years, Ed Buck was said to intimidate and harass his political foes in West Hollywood, but that didn’t stop politicians from taking his money.
Buck usually paid Carlos about $200. Nearly every time, he would ask him to slam, and Carlos would decline.
He sometimes paid Carlos $25 an hour for chores — doing the laundry or shampooing the carpet. Buck bought Carlos a mobile phone and a generator for his tent, along with clothes from a surplus store.
Carlos once texted Buck to say he needed to work so he could buy a new tent. “One of the people in my homeless encampment, he burnt my tent down, and I needed another one,” he testified.
After months of resistance, Carlos texted Buck that he was willing to slam, “no ifs, ands or buts.” “I really wanted to get off the streets that night for fear of my life,” he told the jury.
But once he was at Buck’s apartment, Carlos said he could not bring himself to do it. Buck, in turn, declined to pay him. On another occasion, Buck refused to pay for an Uber back to his tent, forcing Carlos to walk 12 miles from West Hollywood to Hawthorne.
One night in September 2018, Carlos fell asleep at Buck’s place. “I woke up to him injecting me with crystal meth,” Carlos testified. Carlos was startled to see Buck sitting on his thighs holding a syringe poked into his elbow pit.
“Don’t move,” Buck told him when Carlos jerked his arm.
“How did you feel when that was happening?” assistant U.S. attorney Lindsay Bailey asked him.
“Violated,” Carlos responded.
Others felt that way too. “I was out cold,” one man texted Buck. “What happened to me? Or what did you do?”
Bailey asked Carlos why he kept going back.
“Because I was homeless and in need of money,” he answered.
The West Hollywood Democratic donor goes on federal trial over fatal ‘party and play’ sexual encounters.
When Buck realized during another session that Carlos needed to avoid the toxic mix of GHB and alcohol, he mentioned Moore’s fatal overdose. “I don’t need another dead N on my couch,” Buck told him, according to Carlos.
The prosecutor asked, you mean the N word?
“Yes,” Carlos responded.
Anthony, 30, a Black man who met Buck on Adam4Adam, also testified that Buck “would use the N word.”
Buck offered to pay Anthony more money if he would inject meth. “I told him I was too scared,” Anthony told the jury.
Anthony said he accepted Buck’s offer of cocaine. Buck injected himself with crystal meth, photographed Anthony naked and urged him to do more drugs, he said. Buck wanted him “in a Zombie-like state so he could do anything he wanted with me,” Anthony told the jury.
Moore was a friend of Anthony’s. They lived together for a year and sometimes worked escort jobs together. Moore had the word “misunderstood” tattooed across his chest.
Videos of Moore getting high with Buck, along with their text message traffic, foreshadowed his deadly overdose.
“I don’t know if I can handle another slam,” Moore told Buck in one video.
In another, Buck, who kept his underwear collection in big plastic bins, is seen shifting a huge pile of briefs and jockstraps around Moore’s naked body.
In a September 2016 video, Moore is asleep or unconscious as Buck manipulates his body sexually without his consent.
Moore texted Buck that month that he regretted slamming, saying he thought the $500 that Buck offered him to try it was too enticing to turn down.
“I feel real dumb now I got real high and slammed for no reason I can’t even go to work, I gotta be smarter,” Moore wrote.
Weeks later, Moore sounded eager for more. “I just need u to trust me and have my Slam READY!!!!” he told Buck in a text.
Yet days later, Moore lamented that he “nearly overdosed.” Six weeks after that, he told Buck: “I honestly do need to stay away from you.”
“I’m spending 18 hours at your house getting high and wasting time and slamming and swallowing dozens of Viagra for nothing,” Moore wrote to Buck. “Slamming isn’t worth it.”
The trial has shaken Cory McLean, Moore’s best friend. He carried a cup of Moore’s ashes to the courthouse, and he’s determined to see Buck convicted.
“I think it’s dark and crazy,” he said.
McLean opposes the death penalty, but has pondered whether a lethal injection might serve justice in this case.
In March 2018, Jermaine, now 31, noticed that Buck’s Adam4Adam profile included a rose emoji, meaning he was “generous” — that he paid for party and play. Jermaine was living on the streets and working as an escort to get by. Buck once sent an Uber to pick him up at a men’s shelter and later bought Jermaine a plane ticket to travel to L.A. from his home in Minnesota.
Jermaine, who said he is schizophrenic, did not react well to the slamming. “It felt like my head was going to pop off,” he testified.
Buck offered him a bottle of Gatorade, as he did with other men. It tasted bitter, and Jermaine said he suspected it was spiked. When they shot up, he said, Buck filled each of their syringes with drugs from different bags, making him wary.
“I felt like I was in danger,” he said.
He later texted Buck about Moore.
“You sure you didn’t stick that boy with that needle and kill him?” he asked. “Is that what you was trying to do to me yesterday?”
“That could’ve been me,” Jermaine testified. “I almost died.”
For Carlos, who has moved to Las Vegas to be near his toddler and ex-wife, it was a painful ordeal to take the witness stand.
“I fight every day not to commit suicide,” he testified. “It’s really hard.”
Carlos started to cry. “I thought I put Ed Buck behind me.”
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