A jury of seven women and five men was sworn in today for the federal criminal trial of former political donor Ed Buck, who is accused of providing methamphetamine to two men who overdosed and died in his West Hollywood apartment.
The panel, along with three female alternates, was chosen after a daylong process in which some of the 50 prospective jurors were brought to tears when questioned about sensitive topics such as drug use among family members and close friends. Others told of personal tragedies or encounters with
law enforcement that left one man “bitter about the Los Angeles County
When queries got too uncomfortable for public airing, U.S. District
Judge Christina Snyder allowed responses to be provided in private behind
The pool reflected a cross-section of the region’s population, taking
in people ranging in age from their mid-20s to their late 60s. Occupations
included teachers, a flight attendant, retired nurses, an unemployed actor, a
greenhouse manager, pharmacists, a fitness instructor, and a “personal
assistant to a famous artist” who said she had twice been “drugged
Buck, 66, sat quietly beside his two attorneys during the proceedings.
Snyder had asked everyone in the courtroom to remain masked and socially
distanced except when speaking, and because of the number of seats that were
kept vacant, a secondary courtroom with a video screen was in use for non-jury
Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the
downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse. The trial is expected to last between
eight and 10 days.
Buck is accused of paying Black men to allow him to inject them with
methamphetamine — even while they were passed out. He also faces state charges
of running a drug den, but the federal case is proceeding first.
A trial memorandum alleges Buck lured vulnerable, homeless gay men,
who were addicted to drugs or working as escorts, to his Laurel Avenue
apartment, where he provided drugs in exchange for sexual activity. The alleged
practice turned lethal when Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean died of overdoses,
according to prosecutors.
Buck’s attorney, Christopher Darden, best known for being part of the
prosecution team in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, has not responded to
numerous requests for comment.
The juror questionnaire touched on prior drug experiences and views on
prostitution, homelessness and law-breakers who cooperate with law
enforcement in hopes of getting a break.
Federal prosecutors also wanted to know if potential panelists or
their friends or family ever had a drug problem, or whether any close friends
or relatives have been drugged against their will.
“Have you had a close friend or relative die of a drug overdose?”
was among the questions asked of potential panelists.
Almost every one of the 50 people who stood at the podium before the
judge told of a drug dependency or a drug-related death within their family.
Buck faces nine felony counts, including two counts of distribution of
controlled substances resulting in death. The counts stem from the deaths
of 26-year-old Moore in July 2017 and Dean in January 2019. If convicted, each
of the two charges carry 20-year mandatory minimums.
Buck is also charged with knowingly enticing Moore to travel to Los
Angeles to engage in prostitution, and providing him with crystal
methamphetamine before he overdosed on the drug and died. Buck is facing a
second count of enticing a different man to travel with the intent of engaging
in prostitution; one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing
methamphetamine; and one count of using his West Hollywood apartment for the
purpose of distributing narcotics such as methamphetamine, and the sedatives
gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and clonazepam.
At the apartment, Buck “prepared methamphetamine syringes in a
ritualistic fashion; some victims report that he required them to watch him do
it,” the trial memorandum alleges. “Buck’s preference was to personally
inject victims, and he pressured or incentivized victims to let him do so,
sometimes offering large cash bonuses to coerce a victim to agree to an
injection or additional injections. Other times, Buck simply injected victims
while they were unconscious.”
The document describes “party and play” sessions in which Buck
allegedly paid men he sometimes solicited from online gay male dating and
escort sites to use drugs he provided, and perform sexual acts.
Buck was arrested in September 2019 after being charged in federal
court with providing the methamphetamine that led to the overdose death of
Moore. He was indicted weeks later in connection with the death of Dean.
“Sadly, neither of these deaths deterred defendant from continuing to
distribute methamphetamine through party and play sessions,” prosecutors
allege in court papers.
Buck has been in custody at a downtown federal lockup since his arrest