Congressman Trey Radel, a tea party freshman lawmaker from Fort Myers, was arrested on Oct. 29 for cocaine possession in Washington, D.C, Politico reported.
Radel, who faces a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, was charged Tuesday in the District of Columbia Superior Court with misdemeanor cocaine possession and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
“I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida,” the 37-year-old Republican, whose legal name is Henry Jude Radel III, said in a statement. “I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”
Radel was arrested in a Drug Enforcement Agency bust when his alleged dealer, arrested in a separate case, led authorities to the congressman, officials said.
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Radel then allegedly bought cocaine from an undercover agent in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. Afterward, authorities visited the congressman’s apartment and informed him he would be charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession.
If Radel had been arrested in his home state for cocaine possession, he would have faced far more serious consequences than in Washington. The crime is a felony in Florida, where Radel would have lost his voting and other civil rights had he been convicted in state court.
Another contrast between D.C. and Florida: If the congressman had been a state worker, he would face termination under Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to drug test state employees.
Radel’s arrest comes amid international attention over the use of cocaine by Toronto’s mayor, conservative Rob Ford, who recently admitted to smoking crack. As did Radel, he blamed his crack use on alcohol. Unlike Radel, Ford has been defiant and has denied at times having a drug problem.
A libertarian-leaning Republican, Radel doesn’t support lock-’em up policies. He was a co-sponsor of a bill to reduce mandatory-minimum sentencing.
A former TV news anchor and radio-show host, the political newcomer won his Republican-leaning district in 2012 and defeated a host of bigger names in a crowded GOP primary that included Chauncy Goss, the son of former U.S. Rep. Porter Goss, and former state Reps Paige Kreegel and Gary Aubuchon.
Radel’s campaign was accused of dirty tricks when opponents learned he bought up phony websites in their names that appeared to be maintained by them and that, his critics said, misled voters. His business, Trey Enterprises, also owned sexually explicit website names that fellow Republicans criticized.
A fan of rap music, Radel frequently mused about loving old-school hip-hop such as Public Enemy and freely engages and jokes with constituents, consultants and reporters on Twitter. He also posts numerous photos of him and his young son.
On the day he was arrested, Oct. 29, Radel made no mention of it but kept tweeting.
Radel noted he was heading to a Geraldo Rivera interview that day, and continued criticizing Obamacare.
“The mandate to carry health insurance is the most unpopular requirement of the healthcare law. #delaythefine,” he tweeted posted at one point.
“Had some fun last few wks. Check out #treydome for look at tour of our Capitol. And for fun- #treyonplane Reviewed hilarious SkyMall mag!,” he said in his last tweet on the day he was arrested.
Critics of the congressman on Tuesday were quick to point out that drug-abuse treatment is now required under the very law that Radel bashed — the Affordable Care Act.
Radel made a splash in D.C. by appearing to be a younger, hipper version of fellow Florida Republican and rap lover Sen. Marco Rubio, whom he jokingly challenged to a rap trivia contest.
Radel’s political positions are a little more hard-edged. He was one of the original group of Republican lawmakers to start talking about a federal-government shutdown and suggested impeaching President /Barack/ Obama over gun use.
“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions,” Radel said in his statement.
“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling,” the congressman wrote. “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.”
“Please keep my family in your prayers.”