The mother of the young African-American man found dead of a drug overdose in the apartment of prominent white political donor Ed Buck stood before the West Hollywood City Council tonight to ask that other young men who had evidence about Buck be granted immunity from prosecution so they could present that evidence to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
LaTisha Nixon made the request in a speech before the West Hollywood City Council that attracted coverage from local television stations. She was accompanied by members of her family and African-American activists.
Nixon’s son, Gemmel Moore, 26, was found dead on July 27 in Buck’s apartment on Laurel Avenue. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office ruled the death an accident and attributed it to Moore’s use of methamphetamine. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department announced recently that its Homicide Division has opened an investigation into the circumstances around Moore’s death.
“We have a lot of victims who have come forward,” Nixon said, speaking of others who have claimed to have done illegal drugs with Buck and are sex workers. “We have more information, but we need immunity for these people because some of these charges, by them testifying, they can be felonies.”
“This meth situation is out of hand,” Nixon said. “It needs to be addressed. Not only that, Ed Buck needs to be stopped. He needs help.”
While the City Council has no authority to grant immunity from prosecution, several of its members supported Nixon’s request. Councilmember John Duran, however, noted that such grants are complicated. For one thing, the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have the authority to grant immunity from prosecution to witnesses. Whether to grant such immunity is decided by the L.A. County District Attorney’s office. Anyone testifying without that immunity could be prosecuted for prostitution or drug dealing.
City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said she had contacted the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department and asked them to “take the necessary steps to make it possible for anyone with information pertinent to this case to safely come forward. I want all facts surrounding this case to be known.”
“I am sad to hear the news of his tragic passing and I’m deeply disturbed by the accounts in local reports,” Horvath said. “As you have heard, the case involves someone well-known to this community and in LGBT and local political circles. In full disclosure, I have not received contributions from that individual but I want to state clearly that it shouldn’t matter who the subject of an investigation is – an investigation must be conducted thoroughly and without prejudice.”
“Our local (Sheriff’s) station needs to be a refuge for victims of crime regardless of skin color or immigration status, regardless of whether they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, regardless of the circumstances that brought them into the station – all victims of crime need to be heard,” Horvath said. “And I ask that both LASD and the L.A. County District Attorney’s office take the necessary steps to make it possible for anyone with information pertinent to this case to safely come forward. I want all facts surrounding this case to be known.”
Horvath noted that there is a “victim advocate resource person” at the Sheriff’s Station who can offer advice to anyone who is a victim of a crime. “I encourage all citizens to use this resource to report facts pertaining to this case or any other case.”
Jasmyne Cannick, a black communications and public affairs strategist, has published allegations about Buck from other unnamed young men, with photos, online. Cannick earlier had published photos of pages from the journal of Gemmel Moore in which he wrote about his relationship with buck.
Mayor John Heilman and council members Lauren Meister and John D’Amico also voiced their support for Nixon and her family. “I appreciate her efforts in speaking plainly to us and asking for help,” D’Amico said. D’Amico acknowledged that many residents drink and do drugs for “fun and to enjoy themselves” but lamented that some become addicted.
Council members have been criticized by some black activists for not haven spoken out earlier for an investigation into Moore’s death. In her criticism, Ashlee Marie Preston, a transgender African American activist who is editor of “Wear Your Voice,” an online magazine, has noted that Buck was donor to the election campaigns of some council members. Buck gave the maximum personal donation of $500 in 2011 and 2014 to John D’Amico’s election campaign. He also gave that maximum donation to Duran in 2012. Buck was an organizer of a campaign to ban the sale of fur garments and accessories in West Hollywood and rallied fur ban activists to support D’Amico, who pushed through the ban in 2011 after he was first elected to office.
Buck has not responded to requests for comment about circumstances surrounding Moore’s death. His lawyer, Seymour Amster, has said that Buck had nothing to do with Moore’s death.
“It is unfortunate that the Sheriff’s Department is reacting to unsubstantiated allegations,” Amster said. “This is a tragedy, not a crime. He had no involvement in Gemmel Moore’s death. Unfortunately, he opened his home to an individual who was troubled.”