By Cynthia Gibson
LOS ANGELES — One year after political donor and LBGTQ activist Ed Buck’s arrest for his role in the overdose deaths of two Black men, the victims’ family members expressed outrage over the possibility of Buck’s release on bail and a recently published New York Times article during a Zoom call Sept. 17 with journalist Jasymne Cannick and attorney Nana Gyamfi.
In the 90-minute conversation, the mother of Gemmel Moore and the sisters of Timothy Dean, both of whom died of methamphetamine overdoses at Buck’s West Hollywood apartment, said that his release would be an injustice.
“It’s wrong that just because he has money he can get out,” said LaTisha Nixon, Moore’s mother. “He murdered my son and he should never be able to get out, ever.”
JoAnn Campbell and Joyce Williams, the sisters of Timothy Dean, agreed. “He needs to stay locked up forever,” Williams said.
Buck faces trial in January over his involvement in the deaths of Moore and Dean, who both died after overdosing on methamphetamine inside Buck’s apartment 18 months apart in July 2017 and January 2019, respectively.
Buck, 65, pleaded not guilty in court Sept. 4 to federal charges including distribution of methamphetamine to a man who died as a result. A federal grand jury has charged him with nine counts in connection with the deaths of Moore and Dean.
In late August, Buck’s attorneys requested that he be released from jail while awaiting trial. The attorneys said that Buck is at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in custody due to his age and because he has gum disease and a cardiac condition. His bail hearing is set for Sept. 25.
Jasmyne Cannick, a spokesperson for the Moore and Dean families, said during the Zoom call that releasing Buck would make Black gay men feel unsafe.
“Gum disease, heart issues, old age and COVID are not good reasons to let Ed Buck out of jail,” she said. “He is a walking public health crisis. Wherever he goes, Black people die.”
Cannick also discussed a “Nobail4edbuck.com” petition she started, with the goal of gathering at least 500 signatures to present to Magistrate Judge Rozella A. Oliver at the Sept. 25 hearing.
“We need to keep Black men safe and Ed Buck needs to stay in jail,” she said.
Nana Gyamfi, one of two attorneys representing the families of Moore and Dean, said that Buck would welcome release on house arrest.
“I don’t know if they’re not paying attention, but that’s where he kills people,” she said. “House arrest is not going to be a problem for him.”
Gyamfi also expressed concerns about where Buck would go, since he was evicted from his West Hollywood apartment at the end of 2019. She asked where he could live and not be considered a threat to the community, especially to Black men.
Buck had a reputation for soliciting economically disadvantaged gay Black men for sex and drugs. After Moore’s overdose death in 2017, Cannick, Nixon and Moore supporters repeatedly called on Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to file charges against Buck; she declined to do so, citing insufficient evidence. On Jan. 7, 2019, Timothy Dean died of a methamphetamine overdose and alcohol toxicity inside Buck’s apartment. Charges against Buck were not filed in Dean’s death.
That changed when a third man overdosed at Buck’s apartment on Sept. 11, 2019, but escaped and called the police.
On Sept. 19, 2019, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna announced federal charges at a press conference against Buck for distributing methamphetamine that directly resulted in the overdose death of Moore. The federal complaint outlines a disturbing pattern of Buck soliciting other men for sex in exchange for drugs and money. Investigators on the case spoke to 10 additional victims, nine of whom said Buck administered drugs to them or strongly encouraged them to ingest narcotics in order to be compensated for sexual services.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s office also filed three felony charges against Buck in state court, including, “battery causing serious injury; administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house.”
“[The surviving victim’s statements] gave legally sufficient evidence to establish the charged crimes and prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in state court,” Lacey said at a press conference last September.
If Buck is convicted of the state charges, he could face a maximum sentence of five years and eight months in state prison. The federal charges against Buck carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum of life in prison without parole.
Buck has been in jail since his arrest a year ago, with his bail set at $4 million. His lawyers stated that Buck is a low flight risk and is willing to sign the $400,000 appearance bond, surrender his passport and agree to electronic monitoring, if released.
Cynthia Gibson is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Culver City and West Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.