LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Democratic Party donor Ed Buck, already accused by Los Angeles prosecutors of operating a drug den, has been charged in federal court with distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, part of an alleged crime pattern that could include up to 10 other victims.
Buck, a wealthy Democratic activist who contributed to the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, did not enter a plea to the federal charge during a brief court appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday.
That charge stems from the death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, who succumbed to an overdose of methamphetamine at Buck’s apartment in the Los Angeles suburb of West Hollywood on July 27, 2017. A second man, 55-year-old Timothy Dean, died of a drug overdose at Buck’s apartment in January 2019.
“Investigators have identified 10 additional victims - nine of whom (Buck) administered drugs to or strongly encouraged them to ingest narcotics as part of agreements to be compensated for sexual services,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said told a news conference.
Hanna said prosecutors would seek to have Buck held without bail pending trial. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of the federal meth distribution charge that was filed late on Wednesday in connection with the death of Moore.
Buck’s defense attorney, Seymour Amster, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday but told local media that he would fight the case “vigorously” in court.
Hanna said some of the victims in the case were homeless men vulnerable to exploitation or “other disadvantaged individuals”.
Buck was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a third overdose at his home this month, a 37-year-old man who survived the incident. His name has not been released.
The Democratic activist was charged in state court with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house.
Buck also appeared in criminal court in Los Angeles on Thursday in connection with the state charges.
U.S. Representative Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, on Wednesday accused authorities of being slow to arrest Buck out of indifference over the deaths of gay black men..
But Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said prosecutors had difficulty in finding witnesses who would agree to testify against Buck in court.
Buck continued to solicit men for sex, promising to pay them with money or drugs, even after the second overdose death at his apartment in January, federal prosecutors said in court papers.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler, Cynthia Osterman and Tom Hogue