A federal judge in Los Angeles said Tuesday that the discovery of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia inside a tool chest would be likely be admissible as evidence against noted political activist Ed Buck, who is facing trial on charges he supplied methamphetamine to two men who overdosed and died.
After listening to testimony and personally questioning one of the homicide detectives assigned to the Buck case, U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder said she was not inclined to reconsider her decision from March that a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. deputy had observed the narcotics items in, “plain view,” while assisting in the investigation of the death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, who died inside Buck’s apartment on July 27, 2017.
Buck’s defense said it had learned the deputy, Grehtel Barraza, initially said she had opened drawers at the direction of a Coroner’s office investigator but without a search warrant, an action that could render the items inadmissible during a jury trial.
The defense argued the deputy gave a revised account of the discovery in a supplemental report, which said the items were visible before opening the drawers.
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“I think the supplemental report may be the source of some limited cross examination,” Judge Snyder said, but barred Buck’s defense from raising questions about the credibility of the homicide detective.
Buck has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that accuse him of supplying methamphetamine to Moore and Timothy Dean, who died on January 7, 2019, also in Buck’s apartment, also of a methamphetamine overdose.
The federal case also accuses Buck of distributing methamphetamine to three other men between 2018 and 2019, and allegedly enticing a man to travel with the intent of engaging in paid sex.
According to an internal memo the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined in July, 2018 to charge Buck after Moore’s death citing the insufficiency of, “admissible evidence,” which a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case told the I-Team is a direct reference to Dep. Barraza’s initial statements that the drugs were not in plain view.
The deputy’s revised account is part of the basis for the more recent federal charges that relate to Moore’s death, and Buck’s defense lawyers obtained in early June an order from the judge that directed the District Attorney’s Office to turn over everything it knows about the deputy’s statements and reports.
“Yes, our office produced documents and declines further comment,” said D.A. spokesman Greg Risling. The nature and quantity of the documents was not clear from the court record.
Two days before the initial federal charges were filed in 2019, Buck was charged in state court with battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine, and maintaining a drug house. He pleaded not guilty and the case remains open.
The LA County District Attorney’s Office said those charges stemmed from the life threatening drug overdoses of a man identified in court documents as, “Joe Doe,” on Sept. 4 and 11, 2019, but were otherwise not directly related to the deaths of Moore and Dean.
Buck’s federal trial is scheduled to begin in July.