by Jasmyne A. Cannick and Nana Gyamfi, Esq.
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s failure to charge Ed Buck for the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean was not because of a lack of evidence or probable cause.
Her failure was a direct result of a lack of interest and political will. All of which was the reason that the sheriff’s department sought outside help from their federal counterparts to finally bring Buck to justice.
Make no mistake. It is an election year and DA Lacey is extremely embarrassed and rightfully so after having one of the biggest cases in her jurisdiction publicly snatched from her by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
She is trying her best to rewrite history–but not on our watch.
Long before Sept. 11–when another man almost died of an overdose at the hands of Ed Buck–there was plenty of evidence that Buck caused Gemmel Moore’s death. The evidence at the scene alone demonstrated that Buck was lying about what happened and that Gemmel’s death was the result of foul play.
The kind of foul play that usually results in murder charges–unless you are a wealthy white man with political connections. After all, we cannot ignore the fact that this is the same district attorney who took a political donation from Ed Buck on Feb. 14, 2018, nearly seven months after the death of Gemmel Moore and in the middle of a homicide investigation that involved the donor.
After Gemmel’s death, we secured limited immunity from the district attorney’s office for the victims of Ed Buck to speak to the sheriff’s department about what they knew. It was not offered. It was something we fought for.
There were numerous statements, text messages, photos, and videos provided to the sheriff’s department by these victims. If that wasn’t enough, there would eventually be the dead body of Timothy Dean in the same apartment under the same circumstances. All of which would normally be more than what was needed for Lacey to file murder charges–on anyone of color.
And while Lacey lied about the validity of the victims we brought to the sheriff’s department over the course of this investigation, saying that they were secondhand witnesses with hearsay testimony–it was those same witnesses that the federal government used to secure an indictment against Buck in the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean and three additional counts of methamphetamine distribution.
“We spoke with every single person and made a very valiant attempt to speak with every single person who said they had witnessed something,” said Lacey at a Sept. 19 press conference with the federal prosecutors. “And oftentimes those people had heard things but they weren’t actually a witness to it.”
In our best impression of television’s Maury Povich–that was a lie.
We know that up until as recent as this summer, Lacey claimed to not even know anything about the additional victims or that Ed Buck was still engaged in the same predatory behavior that took the lives of Gemmel and Timothy.
We also know that since Buck has been charged by the feds, her office is only now trying to scramble and backtrack and speak to our victims in what we can only describe as some too little too late lame-ass attempt to build the case that should have been brought in 2017 after Gemmel Moore’s death and before Timothy Dean died.
One distraught victim emailed us last week to express his disappointment over the district attorney’s office telling him that it was too late for him to file charges against Ed Buck and that although he had come forward some time ago, the DA acknowledged they hadn’t even bothered to look at his file and or any of his evidence.
“She tells me that she hasn’t looked at my file. If you haven’t looked at my file why did you allow the time limit to pass. [sic] Secondly she never cared to ask for any evidence from anyone. Nor did anyone turn in any evidence to them. I felt what he [Buck] did to me was just brushed to the side and everyone had a false since [sic] on [sic] caring about me. So I [sic] risked my life and my evidence wasn’t looked at and when the prosecutor gets around to it theyll [sic] throw me a bone. Doing this is extremely hard especially when Im [sic] experiencing severe depression.”
Let us not forget that when Ed Buck was finally arrested and charged by Lacey on Sept. 17–it wasn’t for the deaths of Gemmel Moore, Timothy Dean or the countless other victims who had stepped forward about the white man in West Hollywood who they say was a violent, dangerous sexual predator that had a Tuskegee Experiment like fetish that included shooting crystal meth into conscious or unconscious young Black men that he picked up off the street or via dating hookup websites.
No. It was for maintaining a drug house, battery causing serious injury and administering methamphetamine. Charges that if convicted on would have at most amounted to five years in state prison–which in California could easily be five months.
Then there’s Jackie Lacey’s excuse that the evidence against Ed Buck did not provide probable cause to file murder charges due to a lack of evidence Buck had an intent to kill.
The reality is that she could have filed first-degree or second-degree murder charges against Buck since the latter half of 2017 after the death of Gemmel Moore.
Felony murder is a first-degree murder charge requiring evidence that a person committed a felony or was in the commission of committing a felony that resulted in someone’s death, and the death of that person was a reasonably foreseeable result of the commission of the felony.
As described in the federal complaint, there is probable cause based on evidence provided to the sheriff’s department that Buck provided/injected Gemmel and Timothy with methamphetamine–a felony. As a result of Buck’s commission of that felony, Gemmel and Timothy died from methamphetamine overdose. Death by methamphetamine overdose is a reasonably foreseeable result of Buck providing/injecting them with methamphetamine. Therefore, Lacey should have charged Buck with two counts of felony murder–which is murder in the first-degree.
Alternatively, Lacey could have charged Buck with murder in the second-degree since Buck’s conduct of injecting Gemmel and Timothy with methamphetamine was in reckless disregard for their lives. The evidence that the sheriff’s department collected clearly shows that Buck often injects his victims with methamphetamine without their consent.
The evidence also shows that even when his victims agreed to be injected, Buck shot them up with deadly doses that far exceeded what his victims consented to. Buck’s actions demonstrated an intent to kill, but they also at very least provided probable cause of depraved heart second-degree murder.
Lacey believes that she can escape accountability by declaring that she didn’t know about evidence, statements, and reports from the sheriff’s department. She does not get a pass. Because of her inactions, Timothy Dean is dead and multiple other young Black gay men continued to be victimized.
The law requires the District Attorney to investigate these crimes. Jackie Lacey had a duty under the law to look at the evidence and to read the reports, including witness statements, obtained by the sheriffs. She says she didn’t do that and that is an admission that she has been derelict in her duties as a DA. Her dereliction of duty, however, does not absolve her of the responsibility of prosecuting Ed Buck for all the charges of murder that are clearly supported by the evidence against him.
Putting out newsletters and statements containing even more falsities about her office’s role in Ed Buck’s arrest is simply an effort by Jackie Lacey to do damage control during an election year where her tenure as the district attorney in the County of Los Angeles is on track to come to an abrupt–yet long overdue–end.
The simple truth is, Jackie Lacey failed the victims of Ed Buck and the residents of Los Angeles County when she failed to muster the political will to prosecute him for the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean. Lucky for her, we don’t plan on making that same mistake on Election Day.
Jasmyne A. Cannick and attorney Nana Gyamfi have been working together to bring justice to the families of Gemmel Moore, Timothy Dean and all of Ed Buck’s victims. Follow their work at www.Justice4Gemmel.org.
Coalition Appeals LA City’s Decision on La Brea Project
by Lucille Saunders, La Brea Willoughby Coalition President
La Brea Willoughby Coalition continues its fight to protect the quality of life, as well as the character and scale of the La Brea-Willoughby neighborhood in Hollywood by focusing on clarifying and enforcing all zoning laws. The coalition’s latest fight concerns the project located at 843 North La Brea Blvd. (See architectural rendering above.) The LA City’s December 17, 2019 approval of the project prompted the coalition to file its appeal on January 2, 2020.
The coalition is fully supportive of the project’s efforts to provide supportive housing for low-income or homeless Angelenos. Yet, the City is rushing to approve this project in an attempt to combat the housing crisis in Los Angeles. In the City’s haste to approve the project, valuable input from the surrounding community has been […]
The Bible Welcomes Every Color in the Gender Spectrum
Robyn J. Whitaker for The Conversation
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” is a line I’ve heard more than once in Christian circles. The Bible is often evoked to support so-called traditional views about gender. That is, there are only two binary genders and that is the way God intended it. But is this really the case?
Claims about gender in the Bible usually begin with the creation narratives. But the Adam and Eve story is also not as straightforward as it might appear when it comes to gender, namely because in English, we miss the Hebrew wordplay.
Adam is not a proper name in Hebrew, but rather the transliteration into English of a Hebrew word a-d-m. Using the imagery of God as potter, “the adam” is a humanoid being created out of the adamah (the earth).
Biblical scholar Meg Warner writes we might best translate this person as “earth creature”. The first human appears genderless.
In fact, gender roles are only introduced into the story when a counterpart is made for the earthling, when this human being is separated into two. At that point, they both become gendered: “Eve” is called woman (ishah) taken from the man’s (ish) rib.
Some Christians have read a gender hierarchy into this text as Eve is called a helper – or “helpmate” in the old English versions – for Adam. This term, “helper”, does not indicate a subordinate status. It is a word frequently applied to God in the Bible, and so without any sense of inferiority.
On the sixth day, God created a gender spectrum
There’s no doubt traditional male-female gender roles are common in the Bible. After all, this is an ancient text that reflects the values of the societies from which it emerged.
In these societies, masculinity was the ideal and polygamy not uncommon. This makes it all the more astonishing there are moments of gender subversion and gender diversity found within the Bible’s pages.
Another creation story is found in the very first chapter of Genesis 1. It states:
God created the human in God’s image, in the image of God s/he created him; male and female God created them.
At first glance, this might seem obvious: God made two different, discrete sexes. But if we look at this line in its context, we see this creation account follows a poetic structure made up of a series of binaries that indicate the breadth of God’s creation: light and dark, seas and dry land, land creatures and sea creatures.
In the structure of the Genesis poem, these binaries are not discrete categories, but indications of a spectrum.
The sea and dry land merge on tidal plains. Some animals inhabit both land and sea. Darkness and light meet in the in-between spaces of dusk and dawn. God didn’t create night or day, but night and day, inclusive of everything in between.
If we apply this same poetic logic to humanity, a case can be made for sex and gender diversity built into the very fabric of creation. A creative diversity categorically called “good” by God.
Intersex and asexual affirmations
Queer and feminist scholars have highlighted other moments of gender subversion in the biblical text.
For instance, Jacob is “smooth” and “stays in the tent” – traditional female attributes in the ancient world. Yet he is chosen over his hairy, hunter brother to lead God’s people. Rabbi Jay Michaelson describes Jacob as “gender non-conforming”.
Megan DeFranza is a theologian who works on the place of intersex people in Christianity. While acknowledging that intersex is a modern term, she argues we find traces of intersex persons in the Bible in the language of eunuchs.
Jesus’ comment in Matthew 19:12 that “some are born eunuchs” is acknowledgement he was aware of intersex people and passes no judgement on those who don’t fit traditional male-female sex categories. In this passage, Jesus both affirms heterosexual marriage as well as intersex and asexual persons.
This is not an isolated case of affirmation. Isaiah 56 speaks of God being pleased with eunuchs who come to the temple and in Acts 8, a eunuch is fully included in the new Christian community through baptism. In neither case is change required of them before they can join the community in worship.
Being an ancient text, the Bible obviously doesn’t use the same language nor reflect contemporary understandings of gender, including transgender or intersex persons.
So we cannot simply pull a sentence or two from the Bible as if it offers the final word on sex and gender. Not only does the Bible reflect a pre-scientific worldview but also because the multiplicity of voices will never be captured in this kind of proof-texting.
What we can say is that the Bible affirms in various ways the potential goodness of all humanity and the inclusion of those who diverge from male-female gender norms.
While many churches remain unsafe places for transgender and gender-diverse people, it is imperative to highlight these subversive moments in an otherwise patriarchal text that challenge narrow perspectives, both then and now.
This article is part of a series exploring gender and Christianity
Robyn J. Whitaker is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity.
The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
California’s Local Governments and Schools Are in Economic Distress
by Dan Walters for CalMatters
CALIFORNIA — California’s economy has been booming for most of this decade and has generated a cornucopia of tax revenues for state and local governments.
The state has benefited most, because it collects income taxes. Californians’ taxable incomes have been soaring, especially for those atop the economic ladder, whose tax rates also have been increased.
The state has shared much of its multibillion-dollar windfall with schools, as required by the California constitution, increasing per-pupil spending about 50% in recent years.
Nevertheless, many school districts are in financial distress due to declining enrollment, unsustainable, irresponsible salary increases and, finally, state-mandated increases in payments to the California State Teachers Retirement System to offset its unfunded pension liabilities.
Last week, state Auditor Elaine Howle reported that audits of three big school districts revealed that state aid meant to enrich the educations of poor and English-learner students has often been diverted to cover budget holes.
Many school districts have asked voters for tax increases to close their budget gaps, most commonly through “parcel taxes,” which are levied on real estate. And the California School Boards Association is sponsoring a 2020 ballot measure that would hike personal and corporate income taxes to raise about $15 billion a year for schools.
Schools, however, are not the only local governmental agencies in fiscal distress. Cities, which receive almost no state aid and depend largely on local property and sales taxes, are also feeling the pinch for many of the same reasons.
Prior to issuing her report on schools, Howle released another revealing study on the fiscal health of California’s nearly 500 cities, highlighting those in the worst straits.
Generally, most in trouble are small cities, either in rural areas or in urban cores, whose residents have low incomes. No. 1 on the list is Compton, whose travails have been well documented over the years.
However, there are also a few larger cities that Howle highlighted, such as Oakland, No. 13 on the statewide list, and San Diego, deemed to be one of the top three “fiscally challenged” cities in its region.
The ratings are based on several factors, including liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends and retirement obligations. It’s clear that the last one looms very large.
The California Public Employees Retirement System saw its trust fund plummet in value during the Great Recession as its pension obligations mushroomed, leaving it with only slightly more than 70% of the assets needed to fully pay promised pensions and — so far, at least — unable to recover fully from its investment losses.
Therefore, CalPERS has been ramping up mandatory payments from local governments to reduce what it calls its “unfunded actuarial liability.” Cities get hit the hardest because they employ large numbers of police officers and firefighters who have the highest pensions and therefore the highest pension costs.
It’s not unusual for contributions for employees in so-called “safety systems” to reach 50% of payroll, and CalPERS has told city officials they will continue to climb.
Throughout the state, cities have asked their voters for tax increases, usually sales taxes but sometimes parcel taxes, to close their budget gaps with mixed results. But tax increases are particularly difficult to pass in communities with large numbers of low-income residents.
Howle’s report not only shines some much-needed light on municipal finances but includes an Internet portal for Californians to check on their own cities. And sunshine is the best disinfectant for bad management.
Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. Walters has written about California and its politics for a number of other publications, including The Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. He also has been a frequent guest on national television news shows, commenting on California politics.
This article is produced as part of WeHo Daily’s partnership with CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.
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