Congressman Busted for Cocaine to Enter Rehab

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(CNN) — Calling his drug possession conviction a “wake up call,” U.S. Rep. Trey Radel says he is taking a leave of absence for an unspecified time and will enter an in-patient drug treatment program.

“I have no excuse for what I have done. I have let down our country,” he said at a news conference Wednesday night, hours after pleading guilty to possessing cocaine.

He said he will donate his salary to charity while he’s away.

Radel spoke to reporters after returning home to Fort Myers, Florida, Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, he was in a Washington D.C. courtroom answering to the misdemeanor charge. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

“I will be going into treatment and I’m going to start with intensive, in-patient treatment,” Radel said. “That’s what’s next for me. I have already begun the process. Sometimes in life you need a wake up call. This is my wake up call.”

During the brief news conference, the 37-year-old first-term Republican from Florida said he “grew up with a mom who struggled with alcoholism.”

“I don’t want my son to struggle with that,” he said.

Radel said he hopes he can win back trust of the many people he hurt, including his wife.

“My wife is my rock and she has been so supportive through this,” he said. “I have to mend her heart which I’ve broken, and I’ve broken a lot of hearts.”

The hearing

The plea and sentence were part of a deal that Radel’s attorney struck with federal prosecutors. He could have received a maximum sentence of 180 days imprisonment or a $1,000 fine, or both. Instead, he was placed on one year probation, and if it is “successfully completed,” his guilty plea will be cleared from his record.

“Your honor, I apologize for what I’ve done,” Radel told Judge Robert Tignor in court Wednesday. “I think in life I’ve hit a bottom where I realize I need help.”

Radel said he is aggressively pursuing that help, with the support of friends and loved ones.

The sting

He was charged after he bought 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover police officer in Washington’s Dupont Circle area on October 29, court documents say.

It was a sting that stemmed from a broader FBI/Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of a drug trafficking organization in the nation’s capital, law enforcement officials told CNN on condition of anonymity.

The targets of the investigation are dealers and high-level people in the organization, not buyers and users. But a dealer who was arrested last month told federal agents that one of his customers was a congressman, one of the law enforcement officials said.

So, deciding they couldn’t turn away from that, agents set up the sting, the law enforcement officials said.

The admission

Court documents say Radel gave the undercover officer $260 for the cocaine outside a restaurant, and the two got into the officer’s vehicle, where the officer gave Radel the cocaine.

Federal agents approached Radel after he left the vehicle, and Radel dropped the cocaine to the street, according to court documents.

Radel then agreed to talk to the agents in his apartment, where he admitted he bought cocaine, according to the documents.

“The defendant also retrieved and provided to the agents a vial of cocaine that he had in his apartment,” the court documents say.

The background

A tea party favorite, Radel was elected last year to represent southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

He is a former journalist and TV news anchor, having worked for WINK in Fort Myers, Florida. He also owned and eventually sold the Naples Journal newspaper, according to a biography on his congressional website.

Radel is married with a young son. He is active on Twitter, where he posts about touring the Capitol, listening to hip-hop, playing guitar and opposing Obamacare.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said in a prepared statement this week that members of Congress “should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts.”

“Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents,” Boehner’s spokesman said.

–By Lateef Mungin, CNN

–CNN’s Jason Hanna, Deirdre Walsh, Alison Harding and Greg Seaby contributed to this report.


  • melissa

    He should be taken out of office, he is suppose to be someone children can look up to and he has showed that’s not possible.

  • kathie

    I agree, Melissa. He must not be shown preferential treatment. This is not a political situation, it is a moral one and he should be let go. If, and when he has recuperated, he can run again for office. I hope this is done and I wish him well.

  • Charles Littzi

    His wake up call should of been elected to congress. The bum needs to go! The question is who is paying for the rehab.

  • tasha

    so this guy gets busted buying coke from an undercover officer, snitched on by the dealer, and is a because of his government ties can afford a lawyer who gets him off on one year probation and mandatory rehab with a promise of successful completion that his record will be wiped off the charge and he can once again run for one of the highest offices in the land and some ignorant voters will probably re-elect him to give him a “second chance” and his son will probably still go on to an Ivy League education and not be affected because they’ll probably tell him “oh daddy was away at work on this holiday picture” making him think that he was all doing good deeds being the congressman BUT then over here we have a single mother who shot into the air to ward of her abusive stalker ex-husband and harmed no ones who gets 20 years, most likely if she ever gets out of jail won’t be able to find a decent career position because you’ll have to explain to eat some for your house she was on justly incarceratedand then the employer will hold that against her as well as her being an African American woman who this same potential employer will say “should have known better and not gotten involved with that kind of man” and she wont be able to run for any kind of public office even though she was granted a re-trial and will god willing be acquitted but the courts will take years of red tape to clear her record and still today can’t get released from jail for the holidays to spend time with her kids who have probably had enough holidays ruined by their crazy psychopathic father so more bad memories again. Now where in that is “justice” being served in the great USA folks!!!

  • tasha

    Sorry.. too riled up and mistyped…she will have to explain to each potential employer during interviews why she has a lapse in time on her resume because she was unjustly incarcerated which they will hold it against her even though she God willing will be acquitted as well as her being an African American woman

  • kathie

    Tasha….amazing diatribe that actually made perfect sense to me.
    There is never any real “justice” in this world and your example and so many others I have seen break my heart and make me feel so helpless.

    All we can do is be sure that we help those within our reach and speak out where we can. That brings some small comfort, I guess.

  • Papaw Johnson

    The only REAL *fix* for this kind of problem is to KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN, at all times… I realize that’s easier said than done, but, for some people, they just gotta try harder…

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