LOS ANGELES — Ed Buck, a small-time Democratic donor and political activist, is expected to face a federal drug charge in the death of Gemmel Moore, 26, one of two men who died of overdoses in Mr. Buck’s West Hollywood home since 2017, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case.
Mr. Buck, 65, will be charged with distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, the official said. That charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life, according to the official.
The United States attorney’s office for the Central District of California is reviewing the cases of two other men who suffered overdoses at Mr. Buck’s home: Timothy Dean, 55, who died in January, and “Joe Doe,” a 37-year-old who fled the apartment after an encounter with Mr. Buck this month, according to the law enforcement official.
A federal criminal complaint in Mr. Moore’s case has been filed and will be released Thursday afternoon, the official said.
Mr. Moore was found dead in Mr. Buck’s apartment in July 2017, according to court records. In a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in February, LaTisha Nixon, the mother of Mr. Moore, claimed Mr. Buck had injected him with crystal methamphetamine. Ms. Nixon said her son had never used the drug previously.
The federal charges came two days after Mr. Buck, 65, was charged by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office in connection with the overdose of the man who survived. Those charges — battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house — carry a sentence of up to five years and eight months in prison.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, Seymour I. Amster, a lawyer for Mr. Buck, said that “we will fight this case vigorously.”
Mr. Amster also addressed accusations by the families of Mr. Moore and Mr. Dean, who were black, that Mr. Buck, who is white, had preyed upon black gay men. Protesters gathered outside Mr. Buck’s building this year to demand justice for the men.
“We do not feel that race played any part of this case, before it was filed or when it’s been filed,” Mr. Amster said.
Mr. Buck is a recognizable figure in West Hollywood, a former model who became a fixture in Los Angeles Democratic political circles and was known for focusing on animal rights. In 2007, he made an unsuccessful bid for West Hollywood City Council.
Mr. Buck first rose to prominence in Arizona in the 1980s. Then a Republican, he led the Mecham Recall Committee, an effort to remove the Republican governor, Evan Mecham, from office. Mr. Mecham was eventually impeached, accused of fraud and perjury. Mr. Buck later became a Democrat.
Mr. Buck was not a major Democratic donor, but he handed out tens of thousands of dollars to California Democrats. After scrutiny of Mr. Buck rose this year, politicians began distancing themselves from him, with some donating his contributions to nonprofit organizations.
On Thursday, Jasmyne Cannick, a political activist and spokeswoman for the families of the men who died, said the federal charges were “a victory for our community.”
“It just goes to show that persistence and perseverance pay off,” she said.
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