“I have been covering and chasing Ed Buck since August 2017. I knew Ed Buck was a bad man. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during court on Friday,” wrote journalist Jasmyne Cannick in her report of Day 3 of USA v. Edward Buck. Buck, a once-prominent Democratic donor, faces nine felony charges, including distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death. That’s actually two counts, one for each of the Black men found dead in his apartment: 26-year-old Gemmel Moore in 2017 and 55-year-old Timothy Dean in 2019. Buck, who has pleaded not guilty on all charges, had, in Cannick’s words, “a Tuskegee Experiment-like fetish that included shooting crystal meth into conscious or unconscious young Black men that he picked up off the street or via dating hookup websites.”
Buck’s trial began last week, and the stakes are high, as Cannick reasoned in a pre-trial piece on her website, where she is also writing up daily recaps of the court proceedings. Referencing Buck’s ability to continue his activity unscathed after Moore was found dead in his apartment alongside drugs and paraphernalia, in “When Ed Buck Goes on Trial, So Does White Privilege,” Cannick wrote:
If you are not white, ask yourself what would happen to you if you had a dead body of any color in your living room that had overdosed on illegal drugs, and you yourself had a smorgasbord of drugs in plain view of the cops. Do you think you would have been able to talk your way out of it? Because, unlike white folks who have the privilege of generally having a positive relationship with the police, the same can’t be said for everyone else. Would the police take one look at the dead Black body and immediately itself for dying? Do you think that your friends and associates would look the other way because hey–it’s you?
Via various testimonies and recovered text exchanges (as well as Moore’s journal, in which he alleged that Buck had introduced him to meth), Buck is alleged to have pressured the men he had sex with to take drugs (sometimes via injecting meth or “slamming”), referred to them via racial epithets, and sexually molest them (as well as inject them with drugs) while they were unconscious. A 30-year-old witness (referred to by Cannick as “Victim #1") who alleges he did drugs and had sex with Buck for money, said he did so to keep himself off the streets. Wrote Cannick:
Victim #1 repeatedly said that he only did drugs with Buck because he needed money and was in fear for his life living on the streets and that he wanted a hotel room. He testified about living in several homeless encampments in South L.A. including one near 120th and Western called the “Devil’s Dips.” He said Ed Buck knew he was homeless.
In sum, Cannick’s words present a damning account of exploitation and blatant disregard for Black lives. This pattern of alleged behavior doesn’t suggest S&M gone too far or a drug habit that got out of hand. Instead, it suggests that denigration wasn’t merely roleplay for Buck, but part and parcel of his regard for his partners. Deputy Oscar Palacios, who responded to Buck’s 911 call the night of Dean’s death, recalled seeing Dean’s dead body, drug paraphernalia, and Buck, who was concerned with things other than the dead person in his residence. Cannick quotes Palacios as testifying:
He wanted to talk about different things and he was more concerned about showing us his office and pictures. And as we tried to redirect the conversation back to trying to find the next kin he redirected the conversation back to something completely that had nothing to do with what we were there for. And that seemed unusual to us...Usually when somebody passes away, you know, they’re crying or you have a need to show some sort of empathy or, you know, somebody just passed in their home.
Among the other details includes a neighbor’s suspicion that the construction he saw Buck performing on his apartment in the wake of Moore’s death was to help soundproof his pad. A search of Buck’s apartment after Dean’s death uncovered, among other things, a bottle labeled “Fog Juice” with “Imglycol” written on it, which Buck may have used to drug his victims. On Day 3 of the trial—that was Friday—the court was presented video footage of Buck encouraging men to get high after they said they had reached their limit, footage of men saying they did not want to “slam,” and “videos of unconscious men having their penis manipulated by Ed Buck.” The court was shown several videos of Moore smoking and being injected with meth. Cannick reports that from Buck’s various devices, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recovered over 2,400 videos, and 1,500 contained instances of drug use. Cannick described one video of Buck instructing a partner to smoke meth like this:
Ed Buck told a Black man to flare his nostrils and open his eyes really wide while facing the camera and blowing smoke from a meth pipe.
On the part of Buck’s lawyers, Christopher Darden (yes, that Christopher Darden, of the O.J. Simpson trial) and Ludlow Creary, Cannick writes that their defense “involves weaponizing [Moore]’s HIV status. Darden and Ludlow are fixated on AIDS and making sure the jury has a negative connotation when they hear it.”
What Cannick presents is relentlessly dark, but urgent. Justice must be served. “Ed Buck is Jeffrey Dahmer 2.0. Quote me,” writes Cannick. Read every word she’s written about the trial and you won’t dare argue with that.