Ed Buck pleads 'not guilty' to federal drug charges in arraignment

Activist and Democratic donor Ed Buck plead not guilty Thursday to federal charges stemming from the overdose deaths of two men inside his West Hollywood apartment.

RELATED: Democratic donor Ed Buck indicted by federal grand jury in drug overdose deaths of 2 men

Buck, 65, will face a federal magistrate judge in downtown Los Angeles on a series of narcotics distribution offenses, including providing methamphetamine to two men who died after being injected with the drug. Each of the charges alleging the distribution of narcotics resulting in death carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum penalty of life without parole upon conviction.

The indictment alleges that Buck provided methamphetamine to Gemmel Moore, who overdosed on the drug and died on July 27, 2017, and Timothy Dean, who also suffered a fatal overdose in Buck's apartment, last Jan. 7. Buck also faces three counts of distributing methamphetamine to men in May 2018, December 2018 and last month.

RELATED: Democratic donor Ed Buck charged with running drug den in West Hollywood apartment

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 allegedly 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.

"Buck exerted power over his victims, often targeting vulnerable individuals who were destitute, homeless, and/or struggled with drug addiction, in order to exploit the relative wealth and power imbalance between them,'' the grand jury wrote in the indictment.

RELATED: Community marks 2nd anniversary of Gemmel Moore's death; renew efforts to prosecute Ed Buck

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. Buck is currently being held in federal custody without bond, and the federal case is expected to proceed first.

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.