Evidence Integrity in Question in Ed Buck Trial – NBC Los Angeles

on Jun22
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An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday to discuss whether or not a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy gave inconsistent accounts of how she first observed drugs and drug paraphernalia inside the West Hollywood apartment of noted political activist Ed Buck, who is awaiting trial on federal narcotics charges.

At a pretrial hearing held over Zoom earlier this year Deputy Grehtel Barraza testified that she observed several items including some white powder, later determined to be methamphetamine, inside a partially-opened drawer while she was inside Buck’s apartment. Deputy Barraza assisted with the LA County Coroner’s investigation of the death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, who died during an encounter with Buck on July 27, 2017.

Defense attorneys learned after the hearing that Barraza initially wrote in reports she was directed to open the drawer that contained the drugs and paraphernalia by a coroner’s office investigator, suggesting the items had not been in, “plain view,” and thereby would unlikely be admitted into the prosecution’s evidence, according to discussions at a subsequent hearing and in court filings.

One of Buck’s lawyers, Christopher Darden, did not respond to inquiries about the drug discovery issue, and has previously declined requests to discuss the federal prosecution at all, citing a gag order. 

Buck is facing trial next month on charges distributing methamphetamine that resulted in the deaths of Moore and Timothy Dean, who died on Jan. 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. He has pleaded not guilty and could face a prison term of between 20 years and life if he’s convicted. 

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 Deputy Barraza’s initial statements that the drugs were not in plain view.

A federal judge in LA has denied efforts by former political fundraiser and activist Ed Buck, to exclude some key evidence from his upcoming trial for the drug overdose deaths of two men. I-team’s Eric Leonard reports for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 25, 2021.

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.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder directed on May 21 that the district attorney produce, “any interviews with Sheriff’s Deputy, Grehtel Barraza, both formal and informal, and, any information that would tend to suggest that Deputy Barraza, when asked, failed to disclose that she saw evidence in plain view,” according to a court memo.

“Yes, our office produced documents and declines further comment,” said district attorney 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.

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