A wrongful death civil rights lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Ed Buck, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Craig Hum, assistant head deputy district attorney, in the 2017 death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore at Buck’s Laurel Avenue apartment. The suit has been filed on behalf of Moore’s estate and his mother, LaTisha Nixon.
Moore, an African-American man who was a sex worker, was found dead of a crystal meth overdose in Buck’s apartment on July 27,
Moore’s death was classified as an accidental methamphetamine overdose by the coroner. A protest by Moore’s family and friends and calls from L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin and West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath led the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide bureau to launch an investigation into Moore’s death. On July 26, 2018, the District Attorney’s office declined to file charges against Buck, citing insufficient evidence.
On Jan. 7 of this year, Timothy Dean, a 55-year-old black man, also was found dead in the 65-year-old Buck’s apartment. Buck’s lawyer, Seymour Amster, has said that Dean appeared to have been under the influence of some substance when he entered Buck’s apartment late that night. The coroner has been barred by the Sheriff’s Department from disclosing the cause of death.
Dean’s death, currently under investigation, has sparked a renewed investigation by Sheriff’s detectives into the circumstances of Moore’s death, with detectives travelling as far away as New York City to interview young black men who claimed that Buck paid to fly to his apartment for erotic encounters. Both deaths also have prompted demonstrations in front of Buck’s home, in front of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and at the City Council Chambers on San Vicente Boulevard, with protestors claiming that Buck’s reputation as a donor to local, state and federal Democratic Party candidates has protected him from arrest. This afternoon, the Color of Change black activist group delivered 30,000 petitions to D.A. Lacey demanding that Buck be arrested.
Buck, through his lawyer, Seymour Amster, has denied that he was involved in either death. Amster has described both Moore and Dean as friends of Buck’s who he has offered to help.
“Our hope is that this lawsuit will bring some modicum of justice for Gemmel and all of Ed Buck’s victims,” said Nana Gymafi, human rights and criminal defense attorney and co-counsel for Ms. Nixon. “Gemmel cries out to us in his journals and his words to family and friends to hold Ed Buck accountable for his torture and death at Ed Buck’s hands. There is an aspect of this lawsuit that is about holding Ed Buck accountable in the language that he as a wealthy political donor understands–money. Ed Buck can never fully compensate Gemmel’s mother and his family for hurting and killing Gemmel as we have alleged, but as a wealthy donor, it is only fitting that he take the funds he uses to influence politicians like Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to atone for his crimes against Gemmel.
“Additionally, Gemmel’s family has been clear since Gemmel was killed that they seek justice for all of Ed Buck’s victims as well as the prevention of future victims. This lawsuit helps to protect a very vulnerable population of gay black men by exposing details of Buck’s predatory and racially-discriminatory actions against gay black men. Ed Buck has already felt the pressure with the work that journalist Jasmyne Cannick and Justice4Gemmel and All of Ed Buck’s Victims have done to lift the sheets off of Buck and his deadly and racist predations.
“If Ed Buck had any decency at all, he would have already come forward and apologized and offered to compensate Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean’s families for the terrible harm and trauma he has caused through his actions. But, Buck is not a decent human being, and so we are forced to bring this lawsuit to get some accountability and justice.”
The lawsuit is seeking damages against Ed Buck for wrongful death, sexual battery, drug dealer liability, premises liability, negligence per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress and hate violence.
The lawsuit claims that District Attorney Lacey and Craig Hum violated Gemmel Moore’s civil rights in what it describes as their “race-based refusal to prosecute Ed Buck, which ultimately resulted in the January 7, 2019 death of Timothy Dean under almost identical circumstances that should have been prevented.”
“The filing of a civil lawsuit against Ed Buck is an important step forward on the path towards justice for Gemmel Moore,” said Hussain Turk, social justice lawyer and co-counsel for Ms. Nixon. “Until now, Ed Buck has avoided prosecution by the very same elected officials and law enforcement agents whose pockets he’s been lining with hundreds of thousands of dollars in election campaign and legal defense fund contributions since 2007. That is why this lawsuit also names the County of Los Angeles, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum as defendants alongside Ed Buck.
“Their refusal to criminally prosecute Ed Buck because he is white is an unjust and unequal application of the law that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. If the dead body of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white man was found in the home of an older black man, he’d be lucky to even make it to the police station alive. But on DA Lacey’s and DDA Hum’s watch, Ed Buck hasn’t even been formally questioned for his involvement in the deaths of not one, but two black men. DA Lacey’s and DDA Hum’s unconstitutional failure to act is reprehensible and where their misapplication of criminal justice has consistently failed the black community, this lawsuit will hold Ed Buck, DA Lacey and DDA Hum accountable in the only way our civil justice system knows how–monetary damages. But money, of course, will never bring back the two beautiful black men who died on Ed Buck’s living room floor.”