Congressman cops plea for cocaine possession

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL): Guilty as charged (AFP/Drew Angerer)

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL): Guilty as charged (AFP/Drew Angerer)

First-term US congressman Trey Radel pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of cocaine possession and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation.

The Florida Republican, 37, was arraigned in Washington DC Superior Court on the misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance.

According to court documents, Radel is subject to one year of probation with “minimal supervision,” and is ordered to undergo treatment for his condition.

He had faced a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail.

With the more lenient sentencing, Radel may opt to stay in Congress. House of Representatives members are elected to two-year terms, and the next election is November 2014.

A staffer answered the phone at Radel’s congressional office, but an aide did not return a request for comment.

Radel was arrested as part of a federal investigation into a drug ring in the nation’s capital.

Once it was confirmed that a lawmaker was involved in obtaining drugs from the group, “law enforcement could not ignore this illegal conduct,” and arrested Radel, US Attorney Ronald Machen said.

“Agents learned that Radel would purchase cocaine for his personal use and sometimes share it with others,” the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said in a statement.

The congressman was allegedly caught buying drugs October 29 in a sting operation, but the arrest was not publicized until Tuesday when the charges were filed.

According to DEA, Radel stepped outside a Washington restaurant and paid $260 to an undercover police officer for about 3.5 grams of cocaine.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates that illegal drugs continue to be present in our communities, and do not discriminate by age, gender, socio-economic group or profession,” said FBI assistant director in charge Valerie Parlave.

Radel issued a statement Tuesday apologizing to his family and his constituents of Southwest Florida.

“I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice,” he said.

“I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”

Radel is a former TV reporter, radio host and newspaper owner. He was elected to Congress in 2012, with support from the conservative Tea Party movement.

On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner‘s office said the matter was “between Representative Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

There was no word Wednesday on whether House leadership would welcome Radel’s continued membership in Congress.
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