- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rep. Trey Radel, who pleaded guilty in Washington on Wednesday to cocaine possession, is taking a leave of absence from Congress and will donate his salary to charity.

“I have no excuse for what I have done. I have let down our country,” he told reporters at a news conference late Wednesday, saying he grew up with a mother who struggled with alcoholism and doesn’t want his son to struggle with it.

Mr. Radel, a first-term Republican who represents Florida’s 19th District along the Gulf Coast, says he plans to seek inpatient drug treatment. He received one year of probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine.

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.

Mr. Radel voluntarily admitted to agents at his apartment that he had bought the cocaine, and he 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,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said. “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.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday that he believes Congress should be held to the highest ethical standard but that the issue is now between Mr. Radel, his family, and his constituents.

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