Longtime Democrat donor Ed Buck has been charged in federal court in connection to the overdose death of one of two men who died in his California apartment.
Buck was charged with one count of providing methamphetamine resulting in death, the Department of Justice said. He was expected to appear in a federal court on Thursday. If convicted, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison up to a maximum sentence of life without parole.
Buck also faces state charges. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with battery in connection with the overdose of a third man who survived, administering methamphetamine, and maintaining a drug house in connection with that incident, which occurred on Sept. 11.
In a court filing related to the state charges on Tuesday, Los Angeles County prosecutors described Buck as "a violent, dangerous sexual predator."
“He mainly preys on men made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness," prosecutors said. "Using the bait of narcotics, money, and shelter, the defendant lures these vulnerable victims to his home. 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."
Buck, an LGBTQ activist and onetime candidate for West Hollywood City Council, has donated more than $116,000 to Democratic politicians and groups over the last decade. He also led the campaign to impeach Arizona Republican Gov. Evan Mecham in 1987.
Although he was once prominent in California and Arizona political circles, the death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore at his apartment in 2017 and the widespread media coverage it generated made any association with Buck a liability.
The overdose death of a second man, 55-year-old Timothy Dean, at Buck's apartment in January prompted authorities to take another look at Moore's case, which had previously been ruled an accidental overdose. That second investigation is what led to the current charges in response to mounting public pressure from family members of the dead.
Meanwhile, a number of politicians who received contributions from Buck in 2017 — including Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, California Rep. Adam Schiff, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — have donated the funds to charity.
Thursday's federal charge is in connection with Moore's death, and US Attorney Nick Hanna said investigators identified 10 other victims who Buck had provided or personally administered large amounts of methamphetamine.
"Our investigation into Mr. Buck is ongoing, and we may take further action as the evidence warrants," Hanna told reporters.
Buck will not be charged with murder in the deaths of Moore and Dean, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said, adding that in the two years since Moore's death, prosecutors had been unable to find anyone with firsthand knowledge of Buck's actions who was able and willing to testify against him in state court.
"We determined there was insufficient admissible evidence to hold him responsible for the deaths of Mr. Moore and Mr. Dean," she said. "Ultimately we arrived at the conclusion that there were more options under federal law that could carry a lengthier prison sentence."
The federal investigation began in June with a task force led by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Investigators uncovered a "disturbing pattern" of Buck soliciting sex from vulnerable men in exchange for narcotics and money, Hanna said. One homeless man told investigators that people referred to Buck as "Dr. Kevorkian," a reference to the notorious doctor who claimed to have killed more than 100 people in assisted suicide.
Another man who lived in the apartment said Buck would inject him with meth daily, Hanna said. The man twice required hospital care because of overdoses.
Given the alleged pattern of Buck's behavior, activists have criticized Lacey for not filing criminal charges sooner. On Thursday, Lacey said she had offered immunity to potential surviving victims to encourage them to speak. She added that a break in the case only came after Sept. 11, when a man overdosed in Buck's apartment and lived. He then told investigators what had happened.
"We don’t arrest people based on rumor and innuendo," Lacey said. "We’ve got to have hard facts, hard evidence."