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Political donor Ed Buck sentenced to 30 years in overdose deaths of two Black men

Buck was convicted of supplying the methamphetamine that led to the overdose deaths of two men, and nearly killed a third.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced political donor Ed Buck to 30 years in federal prison for what prosecutors called the "deadly practice of luring people — typically young Black men, and those experiencing homelessness, addiction, and/or poverty — to his West Hollywood apartment" and injected them, sometimes against their will, with methamphetamine and other drugs. That nearly decadelong practice led to the deaths of two men, Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder called Buck's conduct "reprehensible," and said the case was "one of the most difficult and tragic" she'd ever presided over.

Before the verdict, Buck expressed some degree of remorse though he essentially maintained his innocence.

"I want to apologize to the court and my community for my part in the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean," he said. "Their deaths were a tragedy, but I did not cause them." He added that he would "continue to pursue my legal challenge" of the conviction.

Prosecutors had urged Snyder to give Buck a life sentence, writing in their sentencing memo, "Buck does not value human life beyond his own. He used human beings as playthings, destroying their lives merely to appease his own sexual gratifications. He has killed two people and nearly a third, torn apart families, created and amplified debilitating addictions among the most vulnerable populations, and has done it all without an ounce of remorse."

The U.S. Probation Office had recommended a sentence of 25 years. In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Norell pointed out that if the 67-year-old Buck received that, with good behavior, he would potentially be released from prison in his early 80s.

"He will continue to be a danger to the community until the day he dies," said Norell. "This is not a man we will ever be able to trust in the community. Nothing less than a life sentence will give the victims justice." She added that a life sentence would send an important message to other would-be offenders.

Mark Werksman, Buck's attorney, asked the judge for a sentence of "no greater than 10 years," half the statutory minimum of his conviction. He pointed to Buck's poor heath and his rough upbringing. Buck has claimed he was physically and sexually abused by his father and sexually abused by "four to six priests and one monsignor" between the ages of 12 and 15. Norell said there was no evidence for such claims.

In his sentencing memo, Werksman had said a less-than-life sentence would give Buck "the opportunity to rehabilitate and obtain treatment for the underlying issues which led to his involvement in the instant case, and to eventually reintegrate into society rather than receiving a sentence that effectively amounts to him dying in prison."

Born in Ohio, Buck has said that he made enough money from "several business ventures," to retire in his 30s. He moved to West Hollywood in 1991 and lived in the same drab three-bedroom rent-controlled apartment for the next 30 years. He was a fixture in West Hollywood politics, often giving public comment at the City Council meetings, and running unsuccessfully for the part-time council in 2007. He is credited with helping to convince the council to ban the sale of fur in West Hollywood, making it the first city in the country to do so.

He donated more than half a million dollars to various Democratic politicians including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Gavin Newsom, candidates and political action committees between 2008 and 2017.

Buck has said that in his mid-forties, he was prescribed amphetamine to treat his narcolepsy, which eventually grew into a methamphetamine addiction.

During the two-week trial, a chorus of victims testified about their experiences with Buck who, according to prosecutors, "treated them like lab rats in his twisted experiments." Buck cultivated relationships with numerous Black men, some of whom were prostitutes, others drug addicts, others poor — at times all three. They were enticed into Buck's orbit by the promise of money, shelter and drugs.

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A number of Buck's victims recalled being given so much meth they passed out, only to awake to find Buck forcibly injecting them with even more meth. Some said Buck sexually assaulted them while they were unconscious. Buck called these drug-fueled encounters "party and play" sessions.

In July 2017, Moore, 26, was found dead in Buck's apartment. His death was classified as an overdose, and Buck was not prosecuted. Moore's journal entries, some of which were made public, described Buck as a central figure in Moore's addiction.

"My life is at an alltime [sic] high right now & I mean that from all ways," Moore wrote. "I ended up back at Buck [sic] house again and got munipulated [sic] into slamming again. I even went to the point where I was forced to doing 4 within a 2day [sic] period. This man is crazy and its [sic] sad. Will I ever get help?”

Then-District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided, at the time, not to prosecute Buck for Moore's death.

After Moore's death, prosecutors say, "Buck continued to coerce and induce countless men to inject and smoke methamphetamine."

Timothy Dean, 55, a former basketball player who worked as a fashion consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue, died of a drug overdose in Buck's apartment in January 2019. Another man, Dane Brown, was injected three times with methamphetamine by Buck, but managed to survive and stagger out of Buck's apartment.

Only then, a week later, was Buck finally arrested.

The jury found Buck guilty of all nine counts he was charged with, including the distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, maintaining a drug premises, and enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution.

A number of victims spoke before the sentencing. Cory McLean, a friend of Gemmel Moore's, told Buck, "You're the worst person... You're a monster."

LaTisha Nixon, Moore's mother, said, "My son died naked on a mattress, with no love around him." Buck's lawyer had said Moore and Dean were Buck's friends. But Nixon pointed out that after Moore died, Buck never called Moore's family to apologize, never tried to pay for his funeral. "That's not what friends do," she said.

Judge Snyder agreed that if Buck was released from prison before he died, there was some possibility he would commit similar crimes again. But she stopped just short of sending Buck away for life.

"I do think a life sentence is overly punitive," she said.

Norell, the prosector, said 30 years wasn't enough.

Since murder carries a minimum 20 years, she said, "He is effectively getting one kill, and one kill 50% off. Anything less than 40 years does not account for the seriousness of the offense."

Werksman, Buck's lawyer, said murder was a mischaracterization of the events inside Buck's apartment.

"These men weren't abducted off the street," he said. "They came to his apartment to party. Thirty years for two sad, tragic but nevertheless accidental deaths," he said, was too much.

Prosecutors also asked the judge to order Buck to pay his victims $51,562 in restitution and a $400,000 fine. Buck's net worth is the subject of some dispute. Investigators said they found bank statements showing Buck had more than $3 million in various bank accounts. His own lawyers said he has far less than that. The amount that Buck will be forced to pay will be determined at a later hearing.

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