Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of cocaine on Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court and promised to seek treatment for his addiction so he can “continue serving this country.”
With his hands clasped tightly in front of his black suit, the Florida Republican somberly told Judge Robert S. Tignor that, “in life I hit a bottom where I realize I need help.”
Radel apologized for letting down his constituents, his country, his wife and his 2-year-old son “who doesn’t know it yet.”
Radel told the judge he has “aggressively pursued” treatment for his addiction. The congressman is currently enrolled in an outpatient recovery program in Washington, D.C., and plans to find an inpatient program back home in Naples, Fla.
His progress will be monitored as part of the one-year probation sentence he received from the judge. He also received a $250 fine.
Radel’s plea stems from an Oct. 29 charge that he “did unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally possess a quantity of cocaine.”
The charge stayed out of the headlines and was unknown to Capitol Hill for three weeks, until the congressman’s name appeared on the D.C. Superior Court docket this week.
Had the matter gone to trial, prosecutors would have built their case on facts from a fall 2013 probe involving multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration officers.
Through confidential sources and investigators, police learned that Radel had on several occasions purchased cocaine for personal use, and also on some occasions shared with others.
On Oct. 29, the 37-year-old congressman met an acquaintance, with whom he’d previously used cocaine, for dinner at a Dupont Circle restaurant. His pal was accompanied by an undercover officer.
Over the course of the meal, Radel told the pair that he had some cocaine at his D.C. apartment and invited them back to use it with him. They declined, but the undercover officer said he had 3.5 grams of the drug that he would sell to Radel for $250.
After dinner, Radel handed over the cash outside the restaurant, then followed the men to the undercover officer’s car. Inside the car, he was handed a package. When he stepped out of the vehicle, federal agents were waiting. They approached Radel, who dropped the package on the street.
The exchange took place around 10 p.m.
When the judge asked on Wednesday, a somber-faced Radel confirmed that at the time he believed he was purchasing “a drug.”
“Cocaine,” he added after a pause.
Radel agreed to speak with agents on the night of the sting and invited them to his apartment, where he handed over a vial of drugs already in his possession. According to the prosecutor, the substance has not been analyzed, but a field test proved the vial contained cocaine.
If the same course of events had taken place back home in Florida, Radel would be facing felony charges, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $5,000 fine. He would also lose his right to vote.
After the hearing, a composed Radel exited the third-floor courtroom flanked by his attorney and a flock of reporters. He pushed his way into an emergency staircase, where he hustled downstairs and outside to a waiting vehicle without responding to any of the questions about treatment or possible resignation.
Radel, a former TV reporter, did pause briefly when a female journalist tripped and fell outside the courthouse. He turned, and walked back to see if she was all right before climbing into the back seat of his vehicle. The congressman never said a word.
Phone calls and emails to his office have not been returned.