Political donor Ed Buck was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison Thursday after he was convicted on charges related to the overdose deaths of two men in his home.
Buck, 67, was found guilty last year of plying men with drugs during sexual encounters, leading to the overdoses of two Black men in his apartment in West Hollywood, California. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles sought a life sentence, saying Buck preyed on the vulnerable — often young and Black men — for his sexual fetish.
His defense attorneys urged a lower sentence, less than 25 years, that would allow rehabilitation and treatment and “would be much preferable to relegating him to death in prison.”
Buck was found guilty in July of nine felony counts, including two counts of distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. Those two charges carried mandatory minimums of 20 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said Thursday in downtown Los Angeles that the sentencing decision was difficult because she had to balance the good Buck did in his life with “horrific crimes” that she called “more than just an accident.”
Gemelle Moore, 26, was found dead of an overdose in Buck’s apartment in July 2017. Less than two years later, in January 2019, Timothy Dean was found dead in the same residence.
Prosecutors said after Buck’s conviction that he “exploited the wealth and power balance” between the men and himself. They said he specifically targeted the unhoused and destitute to exploit them sexually.
In a court filing before sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Norell said Buck “spent thousands of dollars on drugs and party and play sessions that destroyed lives and bred insidious addictions.”
Buck, a notable donor to LGBTQ and animal rights causes, had also given more than $53,000 to Democratic candidates and to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2008, according to federal records. Several Democrats returned Buck’s campaign donations after he was charged.
Buck told the judge Thursday that he loved the men and wished he could have turned back time, but he insisted he was not responsible.
“Their deaths were tragic, but I did not cause their deaths,” he said.
Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, said in a letter to the court that she hoped Buck would get the maximum term for ruining her life and the hurt he has caused her family. Nixon, a certified nursing assistant, said she could not comfort her son the way she has countless dying people.
“All I can think about is how my son died naked on a mattress with no love around him,” Nixon said. “No one to hold his hand or tell him good things.”
U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in a statement released Thursday after the sentencing that Buck “preyed upon vulnerable victims — men who were drug-dependent and often without homes — to feed an obsession that led to death and misery.”
“Mr. Buck continues to pose a clear danger to society, as evidenced by him continuing to lure men to his apartment, even after he killed two men with lethal methamphetamine injections,” Wilkison said.
“The life sentence imposed today will protect other potential victims and hopefully will bring some solace to the families of two men who needlessly died in Mr. Buck’s apartment.”