Below is my summarization of the proceedings on the seventh day of Democratic donor Ed Buck’s federal criminal trial.
In USA v. Edward Buck, Buck is charged in a nine-count first superseding indictment with distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) (Counts 1 and 2); distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) (Counts 2 through 6); maintaining a drug premises, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1) (Count 7); and enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a) (Counts 8 and 9).
Buck has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is represented by Christopher Darden and Ludlow Creary II.
TRIGGER WARNING: Reading further may be disturbing, even traumatizing, to some people who are sensitive to drug use, racial slurs, or sadomasochism.
July 23, 2021
The morning started with Victim #8 retaking the witness stand for cross-examination.
Christopher Darden did the cross.
Right away Darden focused on the fact that during Victim #8’s direct-examination he admitted to buying drugs.
“One of the things that you talked about on May 5 was purchasing drugs, is that right?”
Darden was referencing Victim #8’s interview with sheriff’s detectives.
He then proceeds to go through a list of dates that Victim #8 admitted to buying drugs.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And on August 9, You ordered two eight balls from Rolando, is that right?
VICTIM #8: Correct.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: Okay and is Rolando your dealer
VICTIM #8: Yes
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: Roland is your connection?
VICTIM #8: That’s correct
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And August one you bought an eight ball from Jared, is that right?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: Okay. And that’s again in 2019?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: August 6, 2019, you also bought a couple of eight balls, right?
VICTIM #8: When was that?
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: August 6, 2019, you bought a couple of tables. Two eight balls.
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And on August 13, you bought two eight balls. Is that right?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And on August 15, you bought two eight balls, is that right?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And on August 21, you bought two eight balls. True?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: You were using methamphetamine before you ever met Mr. Buck. Right?
VICTIM #8: That’s correct.
An eight ball is a portion of meth weighing an eighth of an ounce (3.54 g).
For the record, Victim #8 never denied using meth before meeting Ed Buck. This line of questioning was solely to keep in the jury’s mind that Ed Buck’s victims are addicts.
Christopher Darden accused Victim #8 of faking his two overdoses. He based this on the videos and how he appeared in video surveillance while walking out of Ed Buck’s apartment building.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: You told us that you were ill, right? Thought you were having a heart attack. Right?
VICTIM #8: That is correct.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: You saw the video of you walking down the stairway didn’t you?
VICTIM #8: That is correct.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: You didn’t look distressed or like you were in any kind of physical distress at all when you walked down that stairwell isn’t that true Mr—–?
This line of abusive questioning continued even though the Prosecution’s objections on the grounds that it was argumentative were often sustained.
During a trial, for a judge to agree that an attorney’s objection, such as to a question, is valid. … If the judge agrees he/she will rule “sustained,” meaning the objection is approved and the question cannot be asked or answered.
At one point Darden even questioned Judge Synder’s ruling on an objection by saying, “that’s argumentative?”
Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
There was quite an extensive back and forth between Darden and Victim #8 when Darden accused him of buying the drugs with his own money even though Victim #8 repeatedly testified that he bought the drugs as a middle person and that it was always Ed Buck’s money.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: You bought them and you gave them to Ed Buck even though you say that it was Ed Buck’s money.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: Okay. When you spoke to the government May fifth of this year, did the government tell you that they would prosecute you for distribution for your having given drugs to Ed Buck?
VICTIM #8: No.
This, by the way, is exactly why we fought for immunity for Ed Buck’s victims early on with this case. We knew back then if they came forward they’d be admitting to committing crimes.
Darden even accused Victim #8 of meeting with someone who lived across the street from Ed Buck and of participating in setting up Ed Buck.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: During the last of September 2019, you were having clandestine meetings with some person across the street from the apartment building. Isn’t that right?
VICTIM #8: No.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: This was a setup, wasn’t it?
PROSECUTION: Objection, argumentative.
JUDGE SNYDER: Sustained.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: Wasn’t this a setup? You’re here complaining about Mr. Buck, is that right?
VICTIM #8: I’m here to speak the truth. I’m here to tell my story and what happened throughout my time with Mr. Buck. I’m not here to play setup or play games. This was never my intention. That was never my purpose. This is not why I’m here.
The Prosecution cleared a few things up after Darden’s cross.
PROSECUTION: Now you discussed a little bit on cross-examination the consensual nature of your relationship with Mr. Buck. Was it always consensual throughout the entire relationship?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
PROSECUTION: Were there ever times that Mr. Buck pressured you?
VICTIM #8: Yes, there was times where he did pressure me and I agreed upon some of my actions.
PROSECUTION: Were there ever times when Mr. Buck threatened you?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
PROSECUTION: How did he threaten you?
The Prosecution also reminded the jury of Ed Buck’s actions towards VIctim #8 when he went unconscious at a motel when they were “on the run” in July 2019.
One of Ed Buck’s attorney’s had texted him that he was about to be arrested and so Ed Buck went on the lam taking Victim #8 with him.
Victim #8 had testified that he fell unconscious and woke up to Ed Buck’s with a needle full of crystal meth in his arm.
“He had my arm in his hand and he was about to inject me with another syringe full of crystal meth.”
Not to be outdone Darden got back up and started questioning Victim #8 again.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: So you told us a moment ago Mr. Buck was ready to kill you, is that right? And you bit his penis. You had his penis in your mouth is that right?
VICTIM #8: As I was dozing off, yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And so did Mr. Buck cuss?
VICTIM #8: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN: And, and, at that point, you say, after you bit him, he said, I’ll kill you.
VICTIM #8: Yes.
Darden then proceeds to ask Victim #8 if Ed Buck had an erection when he bit him.
And when Darden said penis he really emphasized the word for the sheer drama of it all.
When the Prosecution objected on the grounds of relevance, Darden told the judge that it was highly relevant.
Judge Synder sustained the objection and said that there was a limit to this and that she wasn’t going to permit any graphic details.
Personally, I think after this trial Judge Synder has seen enough penises for the rest of her life.
THE DEFENSE’S CASE
The Prosecution rested and it was time for the Defense to put on their case. The Defense had one paid expert witness–that’s it, that’s all. Ed Buck told the Court that he was not going to testify on his own behalf so that was that. I mean really, what was he going to say?
But they caught me hiding drugs (It wasn’t me)
Saw me injecting him on the sofa (It wasn’t me)
I even had him in a gas mask (It wasn’t me)
They even caught me on camera (Nah, it wasn’t me)
They saw the marks on his arm (It wasn’t me)
Heard the names that I called him (It wasn’t me)
Heard the scream get louder (It wasn’t me)
DR. MARVIN PIETRUSZKA
The Defense’s expert witness was an elderly doctor named Dr. Marvin Pietruszka who claimed that he knew more than the medical examiner, coroner, emergency room physician, and pathologists who testified before him.
But unlike the medical examiner, coroner, emergency room physician, and pathologists who testified before him, they weren’t paid over ten to fifteen thousand dollars to do it.
A paid expert, Dr. Pietruszka said that he’d testified 350 times in court as an expert witness with 348 times being a paid expert witness for the Defense.
“My opinion is that Mr. Gemmel Moore died of a medical condition. He was young and he was about 26 years old. He was recently diagnosed with HIV. His pathology demonstrated complications of HIV in the form of pulmonary edema, a complication that is found in AIDS.”
The doctor said that he diagnosed Gemmel with AIDS–even though no one else had.
He also claimed that it was alcohol and congestive heart failure that killed Timothy Dean and not a large amount of methamphetamine in his system.
Dr. Pietruszka testified to what he believed the toxic to lethal range of methamphetamine is and that neither Gemmel Moore’s 3.9 micrograms per milliliter or Timothy Dean’s 1.6 micrograms per milliliter was within that range.
The problem was that the Prosecution found a case from 2014 where the good doctor testified in a murder case on behalf of a defendant accused of strangling someone. He said that the someone strangled actually died from a meth overdose. But not only did they die of a meth overdose, but they died of a meth overdose that was well within the toxic to lethal range of methamphetamine –0.9 micrograms per milliliter.
The Prosecution literally made him read from the transcripts–his own testimony–which directly contradicted what he said in this case.
If 0.9 micrograms per milliliter of meth is well within the toxic to lethal range of methamphetamine then that makes Gemmel’s 3.9 micrograms per milliliter and Timothy’s 1.6 micrograms per milliliter lethal.
It was a beautiful thing to watch. The Defense was hot, but that’s on them for not researching their own expert.
I will add that, even though Dr. Pietruszka diagnosed Gemmel Moore with AIDS, when asked by the Prosecution what AIDS stood for–he didn’t appear to know and the Prosecution had to tell him.
Judge Snyder read the jury their instructions which were taken from the Ninth Circuit Model.
Each side–both the Defense and Prosecution took about an hour to deliver their closing arguments.
For the Prosecution’s closing, they basically summarized their entire case for the jury and they did it nicely.
The Defense engaged in the most despicable victim shaming I think I have ever witnessed.
But before I get into that, I just want to say, I’ve witnessed closing arguments before–and not just on television.
This was the sloppiest delivery of a closing argument I have ever witnessed. From Ludlow Creary calling Gemmel Moore Jermaine to the misspellings in his slides he showed the jury–slides, that I will say, looked like a kindergartner put together. From Ludlow not being able to read the slides, because as he said–he didn’t have a good pair of glasses on–to his delivery, it was pathetic and if I were Ed Buck I would want my money back. I didn’t realize just how much Ludlow stutters. I don’t know if that’s on purpose–like if he thinks that makes him relatable. If he thinks that, let me be the first to tell him it doesn’t. It makes him look like even more of a fool than he already looked like. He delivered a closing that seemed like he was making it up as he went.
Below are some gems from Creary’s closing argument.
“This is a subculture, a lifestyle. A lifestyle, many of us didn’t know about. A lifestyle that might be shocking to some of us. But one of the key things that you need to take away from what you saw is that everybody involved was there voluntarily.”
“In order to accept the government’s version of what was going on you have to accept the racist notion that Black men have no free will. They have no morals. They have no standards.”
At this point the judge tells him he’s getting close to the edge and Creary says that he won’t go over the edge–and then he goes over the edge.
“The Government has played over and over again, and had people testify over over and over again about how Ed Buck called them niggers.”
Judge Synder was not pleased. She made it pretty clear early on that she preferred “n-word” be used and not the actual word.
Ludlow Creary also said, “And their [victim’s] testimony consistently is they had no say in the matter. It was all Ed Buck controlling them. Ed Buck is controlling these grown men as if they have no free will as if they had no ability to say no. As if the only place they can get drugs and money was from Ed Buck. Now, we know that all of these men were addicts, and when they say they used to be addicts-no, they still are addicts. They might not be ingesting methamphetamine at this time, but they are addicts. Every day is a struggle for them.”
Creary said, “And there’s a saying, never trust a drug addict, drug addicts will lie, they will lie to get drugs, they will lie to get money, to get drugs. They will be very crafty.”
Imma pull over the car right here for a minute.
If Ed Buck’s victims are addicts and can’t be trusted, then what does that say about their client who is also an addict?
We were forced to sit through almost an hour and a half of the worst kind of victim shaming all in an effort to portray Ed Buck as a defenseless victim in all of this.
I noticed several jurors looking at their watches–which should have been a hint to Creary, but throughout this entire trial, neither Creary nor Darden have been particularly good at reading the room.
After closing arguments, the bailiff was sworn in and the jury was put into the bailiff’s care. The jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.
I am fairly confident that it won’t take the jury long to come to a conclusion.
To recap, Ed Buck faces nine counts.
Two counts of distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C).
Four counts of distribution of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C) .
One count of maintaining drug premises, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1).
And two counts of enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a).
The distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death has a minimum of 20 years for each count.
Each count of distribution of methamphetamine carried a 10-year minimum.
Maintaining a drug premises comes with a maximum of 20 years imprisonment or a fine of not more than $500,000, or both.
Each count involving enticement to travel for purposes of prostitution faces a fine or a 20-year maximum imprisonment, or both.
A federal sentence can be consecutive or concurrent.
Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at the same time run concurrently. Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at different times run consecutively–one after the other.
Ed Buck is 66-years-old.
If Buck is found guilty, he’ll return to court to be sentenced in a few months.
The judge receives guidance and assistance from several sources in order to sentence a defendant. Congress has established minimum and maximum punishments for many crimes which the judge uses to craft a sentence. The United States Sentencing Commissions has produced a set of sentencing guidelines that recommend certain punishments for certain crimes while considering various factors. Further, the judge will look at a presentence report and consider statements from the victims as well as the defendant and lawyers.
The judge may consider a variety of aggravating or mitigating factors. These include whether the defendant has committed the same crime before, whether the defendant has expressed regret for the crime and the nature of the crime itself.
Let me just tell you, Ed Buck has never expressed regret for Gemmel Moore’s death or Timothy Dean’s.
And just to recap for you what Buck’s attorney Seymour Amster once said on Buck’s behalf.
In an L.A. Times interview, Amster said Buck has long been an advocate for people struggling with addiction or homelessness and has been the kind of friend they turn to for help.
“Ed has helped hundreds of individuals, but they are reluctant to come forward because they are thankful but don’t want their personal lives exposed,” Amster said.
Amster said his client brings people into his home, and they bring their problems with them. He denied claims that Buck is preying on vulnerable people and said he did not cause Moore’s and Dean’s deaths.
“These are things they are bringing into this residence that are causing their death,” Amster said. “He has a heart of gold.”
By the way, Amster was replaced with two darker-skinned attorneys for the trial optics.
I am looking forward to Tuesday, which will be the fourth anniversary of the death of Gemmel Moore. I do believe we’ll get a verdict on Tuesday.
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Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning journalist, political strategist, and popular television and radio commentator on race, politics, and social issues.
She’s been covering and chasing Ed Buck since August 2017.
You can read her previous coverage of Ed Buck, including the trial here.
Cannick founded Justice for Gemmel and All of Ed Buck’s Victims to extend her advocacy for the survivors and victims of Ed Buck beyond her journalism, leveraging both her political acumen and savviness with her community relationships.
Follow her on Twitter @Jasmyne for realtime trial updates.