Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Defense attorneys have filed papers to have Ed Buck’s convictions for providing the drugs that killed two men in his West Hollywood apartment overturned, arguing that the government “kink-shamed” the defendant by pointing the jury toward his sexual fetishes in an effort to obscure the lack of proof supporting the charges, according to court documents.
An attorney for Buck wrote that the two men, Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, suffered multiple underlying medical conditions that caused their deaths, not the methamphetamine they ingested.
Buck was convicted not on the prosecution’s drug distribution evidence, but on “extremely prejudicial and irrelevant character evidence, which included a concerted effort to kink-shame Mr. Buck by presenting graphic images and videos of his sexual fetishes,” defense attorney Mark J. Werksman wrote in papers filed March 10.
The impact was “so damaging that on day four of the nine-day trial, it prompted the court to suggest that as a result of the ‘ongoing psychological impact’ this evidence may have on the jury,” counseling may be offered at the conclusion of the case, according to Werksman.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.
After just 4 1/2 hours of deliberations on July 27, 2021 — the four-year anniversary of Moore’s death — a federal jury in downtown Los Angeles found Buck guilty of the nine felony counts he faced.
The prosecution presented evidence that Buck engaged in a pattern of “party and play,” or soliciting men to consume narcotics that he provided and perform sexual activities at his apartment. In these sessions, Buck distributed drugs, including methamphetamine, and, in some instances, injected victims with drugs intravenously in a practice known as “slamming.”
Buck solicited his victims in various ways, including using social media platforms, dating and escort websites, or via referrals from prior victims, including individuals he hired to do other work for him, offering a finder’s fee for referrals.
The men who came to Buck’s apartment were destitute, homeless or struggling with drug addiction. Evidence including photos and survivors’ testimony detailing the drugs-and-sex sessions caused some spectators to look away or leave the courtroom.
Buck, a former West Hollywood political player — who donated more than $500,000 to mostly Democratic causes and served in 2016 as one of California’s electoral college members — was convicted of two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death, stemming from the deaths of Moore in July 2017 and Dean in January 2019. The charge carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
A hearing to discuss the acquittal motion is scheduled for March 28, with sentencing expected one week later. Buck faces between 20 years and life in federal prison.
Buck, now 67, was also convicted of enticing Moore and another man to travel to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution; knowingly and intentionally distributing methamphetamine; and using his West Hollywood apartment for the purpose of distributing narcotics such as methamphetamine, and the sedatives gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and clonazepam.
Prosecutors alleged that Buck caused the deaths as a result of his “fetish” for injecting men with increasing doses of methamphetamine until they became comatose. The defense countered that the victims suffered from serious medical conditions that ended their lives.
Buck declined to testify in his own defense.
Over the course of the trial, federal prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses, including four men who told of smoking methamphetamine that Buck provided and then being pressured to allow the defendant to inject them with the drug.
The acquittal motion contends that the only evidence that Buck distributed methamphetamine and other drugs at his apartment was bolstered by “the testimony of a parade of financially motivated houseless individuals” and drug addicts and should not have been believed.
The defense called just one witness to the stand. Dr. Marvin Pietruszka, who runs a private autopsy service in the San Fernando Valley, testified that after analyzing photos, slides and medical reports on the bodies of Moore and Dean, he determined that both men had significant medical issues that caused their deaths. Methamphetamine, he told the jury, did not kill either one.
Other defense papers contend that the government’s own evidence showed Moore died of pulmonary edema brought on by complications of HIV/AIDS, and his health was further compromised by “chronic methamphetamine abuse.”
The second man, Dean, died 18 months later as a result of multiple health issues, including a bad heart and pulmonary edema “brought on by the ravages of methamphetamine addiction and alcoholism,” according to the attorney who represented Buck at trial. “The evidence establishes that he died of advanced heart disease combined with the effects of alcohol intoxication.”
Several doctors called by the prosecution, including a county medical examiner, testified that both men died from lethal overdoses of methamphetamine.