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Florida congressman pleads guilty to cocaine charge

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Rep. Trey Radel, Florida Republican elected to Congress in November 2012, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine and was sentenced to one year of probation, federal officials announced.

Judge Robert S. Tignor of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia handed down the sentence. If the lawmakers successfully completes probation, the case could be dismissed without an adjudication of guilt.

"I've hit a bottom where I realize I need help," said Mr. Radel, 37, "and I have aggressively pursued that help."

The onetime radio talk-show host said in a statement released earlier that he struggles with alcoholism and that he is "profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida."

"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," he said.

The arrest resulted from a wider sting operation. On Oct. 29, Mr. Radel met with an undercover police officer at a restaurant in Dupont Circle and agreed to buy 3.5 grams of cocaine. The two went outside, Mr. Radel gave the officer $260 and was given a package of cocaine, after which federal agents approached the congressman and recovered the package, according to a statement of offense submitted as part of the plea.

The freshman congressman voluntarily admitted to agents at his apartment that he had bought the cocaine, and provided them a vial of cocaine he had there.

"Today's guilty plea emerges from a broader narcotics investigation that brought to light information that a sitting Member of Congress was routinely using and buying cocaine," said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. "Once this information was confirmed, law enforcement could not ignore this illegal conduct. Mr. Radel's guilty plea is similar to those entered every year by hundreds of other drug offenders in the District of Columbia who possess illegal narcotics. We appreciate his willingness to promptly accept responsibility for his conduct."

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave said the announcement "demonstrates that illegal drugs continue to be present in our communities, and do not discriminate by age, gender, socio-economic group or profession."

Mr. Radel and top House Republicans have not indicated whether he will retain his seat in Congress.

GOP House Speaker John Boehner, in a statement related by his spokesman Tuesday when the arrest first became known, said, "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."

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