Political activist and high-profile Democratic donor Ed Buck pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges stemming from the overdose deaths of two men inside his West Hollywood apartment.
Buck, 65, remains in federal custody. A federal indictment unsealed earlier this month charged him with providing illegal drugs that caused the overdose deaths of the two men and distribution of drugs to others.
Buck appeared to have difficulty hearing during the brief court appearance in downtown Los Angeles. Relatives of the men watched the proceeding.
"I'm working with one hearing aid," he told the magistrate judge.
A tentative trial date was set for Nov. 26, along with a Nov. 4 motions hearing and Nov. 19 status conference.
Buck was initially charged in U.S. District Court with distributing methamphetamine resulting in the overdose death of one of the men, Gemmel Moore, in July 2017.
The federal indictment alleges that Buck provided methamphetamine to Moore, 26, and Timothy Dean, 55, who died in Buck's apartment in January. Buck also faces three counts of distributing methamphetamine to men in May 2018, December 2018 and last month.
The indictment alleges that Buck "engaged in a pattern of soliciting men to consume drugs that Buck provided and perform sexual acts at Buck's apartment," which is a practice described as "party and play." Buck allegedly solicited victims on social media platforms, including a gay dating website, and used a recruiter to scout and proposition men.
Once the men were at his apartment, Buck prepared syringes containing methamphetamine, sometimes personally injecting the victims with or without their consent, according to the indictment. Buck also allegedly injected victims with more narcotics than they expected and sometimes injected victims while they were unconscious.
One of Buck's attorneys, Seymour Amster, has denied that his client -- who allegedly was present when the fatal overdoses occurred in his apartment -- had any involvement in either death.
Buck also faces separate charges, including operating a drug house, that were filed last month by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. He is currently being held in federal custody without bond, and the federal case is proceeding first.
Buck could face a sentence of between 20 years and life in prison if he's convicted on the federal charges and more than 5 years in prison if he's convicted on state charges.
Buck, a former Republican who first made headlines in the 1980s when he spearheaded a recall drive against Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, has been a frequent donor to Democratic candidates and office holders. He has also been active in LGBTQ political circles and once ran for the West Hollywood City Council.