California

Prosecutors decline to file charges against political donor in fatal overdose of Gemmel Moore

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Friends and family gather for a candlelight vigil outside the West Hollywood sheriff’s station in August 2017. Gemmel Moore was found dead of a drug overdose in the home of Democratic donor Ed Buck.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors have declined to file charges against prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck in connection with the fatal overdose last summer of a 26-year-old man at Buck’s West Hollywood home, citing insufficient evidence, according to court records.

In a document dated Thursday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said that the “admissible evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Buck gave Gemmel Moore drugs or is responsible for the man’s July 2017 death.

The document also cited an inadmissible search and seizure, but did not provide details.

Seymour Amster, an attorney representing Buck, said Thursday that the move was a “complete exoneration” for Buck. “Gemmel Moore’s death was a tragedy. It’s now clear that Ed Buck had nothing to do with it,” Amster said.

Los Angeles County coroner’s officials had concluded that Moore died from an accidental methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment, which was littered with drug paraphernalia. Paramedics found Moore naked on a mattress in the living room, the coroner’s report said.

They ruled Moore’s death an accident, and an initial review by sheriff’s deputies found nothing suspicious. But in August 2017, homicide detectives launched a new investigation after Moore’s mother and friends questioned whether the drugs that killed him were self-administered.

A notebook found in Moore’s possession indicated he used drugs with someone whose name is redacted in the coroner’s report. The Times has reviewed pages of that journal, in which Moore purportedly wrote about using crystal methamphetamine.

“Ed Buck is the one to thank,” Moore appears to have written. “He gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth.”

Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon of Texas, had questioned whether Buck’s ties to elected officials and differences in race and class influenced the investigation. Buck, who is 63 and white, is a longtime political donor, onetime West Hollywood City Council candidate and a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles. Moore, who was black, had been homeless and had worked as an escort.

Homicide investigators presented their case to prosecutors July 10. The district attorney’s office reviewed and rejected four charges: murder, voluntary manslaughter, and furnishing and possessing drugs.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AleneTchek