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Democratic donor arrested after third man overdoses at his West Hollywood home

By Meagan Flynn, Washington Post

Prominent Democratic donor and LGBT activist Ed Buck has been charged with running a drug house after a man overdosed last week at his West Hollywood home, the third overdose there since 2017, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday night. The unnamed man survived, while the other two men died.

Buck, 65, is accused in court documents of being a “violent, dangerous sexual predator” who targeted men “made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness” by administering them large doses of narcotics as part of his “sexual fetishes.” Prosecutors say he continued to inject men with drugs even after the two deaths at his home, which occurred in July 2017 and January 2019.

After the most recent overdose, Buck is charged with maintaining a drug house, battery causing serious injury and administering methamphetamine, all felonies. The two deaths remain under investigation, a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman said via email.

“I remain deeply concerned for the safety of people whose life circumstances may make them more vulnerable to criminal predators,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “With this new evidence, I authorized the filing of criminal charges against Ed Buck.”

Prosecutors will ask a judge to set bond at $4 million Wednesday morning, seeking to “stop this terrifying saga of predatory behavior,” they wrote.

“The defendant’s predatory acts and willful disregard for human life must be stopped before another life is lost,” prosecutors wrote.

An attorney for Buck did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

Buck, a former fashion model and well-known LGBT activist in Los Angeles, has donated thousands to Democrats including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.). Lieu said earlier this year he would donate more than $18,000 in contributions he received from Buck to LGBTQ and African American civil rights organizations.

Until the first man’s death at his home in 2017, Buck served on the Stonewall Democratic Club steering committee, and also ran for West Hollywood City Council, CBS Los Angeles reported.

Some activists started to demand Buck’s arrest after the deaths of two Black men in his home.

In the first case, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose in Buck’s apartment in July 2017. He was found naked on a mattress in the living room with syringes, sex toys and other drug paraphernalia nearby, prosecutors wrote in Tuesday’s court documents. The death was ultimately ruled accidental — but Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, drew scrutiny to the case after questioning whether Buck may have administered the drugs to her son.

In his journal, the Los Angeles Times reported, Moore appeared to write: “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of chrystal meth.”

Almost one year after Moore’s death, prosecutors announced they did not have enough evidence to file charges against Buck.

The second man died six months later, in January 2019.

Timothy Dean, 55, was found in strikingly similar circumstances, half-naked with his legs resting on a living room mattress and the rest of his body on the floor. As in Moore’s case, syringes, sex toys and other drug paraphernalia were found strewn around the room, prosecutors said.

Outrage exploded over the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s previous decision to decline to charge Buck. Within six weeks, 30,000 people signed a petition demanding his arrest, led by the social justice activist group Color of Change.

Nixon filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Buck and the district attorney, arguing that Dean wouldn’t have died had Buck been charged in her son’s death. She accused Buck of preying on black men and soliciting them for sex, only to force them into drug-fueled sexual encounters while they were dangerously intoxicated. And she accused prosecutors of failing to more aggressively investigate Buck because he was a wealthy, politically connected white man with vulnerable Black victims.

“If the dead body of a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man was found in the home of an older Black man, he’d be lucky to even make it to the police station alive,” said Hussain Turk, Nixon’s attorney, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Buck also was not charged in Dean’s death. His attorney, Seymour Amster, has repeatedly insisted that Buck had nothing to do with either man’s death, arguing that both were tragic accidents.

But on Tuesday, prosecutors echoed Nixon’s accusations, saying Buck’s “malevolent behavior” directly led to the two men’s deaths. In the motion to set his bail at $4 million, prosecutors describe a pattern of “predatory acts,” culminating with the third victim’s near-fatal overdose last week.

“Using the bait of narcotics, money, and shelter, the defendant lures these vulnerable victims to his home,” prosecutors wrote in the motion. “From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes. These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims.”

In the third case, prosecutors say Buck administered one of these dangerous methamphetamine doses to “Joe Doe” on Sept. 4. Doe left Buck’s apartment to get medical attention, fearing he was overdosing.

But Doe returned to Buck’s apartment the next week, on Sept. 11. That day, Buck injected Doe with another dangerous dose of meth, prosecutors say. Doe felt himself overdosing again — but this time Buck “refused to render aid” to Doe and instead “thwarted Doe’s attempts to get help,” according to the motion.

The man finally fled Buck’s apartment to call 911 from a nearby gas station. He was transported to a hospital.

Prosecutors said of Buck that the “full scope of his consistent malicious behavior is unknown.” During the investigation of all three incidents, prosecutors said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found hundreds of photos taken in Buck’s apartment “of men in compromising positions.”

“It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose,” prosecutors wrote.

Buck is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday morning.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Post.

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