Florida Republican Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel says he's taking a leave of absence from Congress and donating his salary to charity after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession and receiving a sentence of a year's probation.
Radel made the announcement late Wednesday at a news conference where he acknowledged that he had let down his country, his family and southwest Florida residents.
He said takes responsibility for what he did, saying, quote, "I want to be a better man."
Radel was arrested Oct. 29
in a Washington, D.C., cocaine sting, and faced a maximum 180 days in jail and $1,000 fine.
"I've hit a bottom where I realize I need help," Radel told a judge in acknowledging that he purchased 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover police officer.
The freshman congressman has apologized, saying in a statement that he struggles with alcoholism and made an "extremely irresponsible choice."
The 37-year-old was arrested a Washington, D.C., drug dealer told police one of his clients was a congressman. Together they set up a purchase and the freshman Republican bought the cocaine.
In his statement, Radel said he struggles "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."
His statement did not mention whether he would resign from Congress.
He posted this on Twitter:
Talk of Radel's likely resignation from the House is rampant. It is believed it was top of the agenda at a Wednesday morning meeting of the Republican Party's Board of Directors in Lee County, Fla., which encompasses a major part of Radel's Naples-area district.
"Members of Congress should be held to the highest ethical standards," a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement, adding to the pressure on Radel to relinquish the seat that he won in November with 63 percent of the vote.
"The alleged crime will be handled by the courts," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel said. "Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents."
As part of a plea agreement, Radel acknowledged he agreed to buy the cocaine for $250 in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood on Oct. 29. After the undercover officer gave Radel the drugs federal agents confronted him, court documents show, The Associated Press reported.
Radel agreed to talk with the agents and invited them to his apartment, where he also retrieved a vial of cocaine he had in the home, the documents said.
Radel's lawyer, David Schertler, said in court that his client had already entered outpatient treatment in Washington and would also seek treatment in Florida. He said his client sees the charge as an opportunity to seek help for a problem.
If Radel successfully completes his year of probation the charge against him will be dismissed.
The former journalist, TV anchor, and radio talk-show host was swept into office with tea party support, represents Florida's 19th Congressional District, which includes Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island. The seat was vacated by GOP Rep. Connie Mack IV, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate.
Since taking office, Radel has gained attention for his love of hip-hop music and pop culture.
“Part of my affinity for hip-hop and even gangsta rap is because it’s changed my perception of the world and what people go through," he told Buzzfeed in an interview
"If you look at songs like ‘911 Is a Joke’ by Public Enemy and songs by N.W.A — and I’m going to put this lightly — they sing about their experience in the streets and with law enforcement; they are expressing a valid concern," he said.
The 19th District is considered among the safest Republican strongholds in Florida. In his first run for elected office, Radel handily defeated his Democratic opponent, decorated Vietnam combat veteran Jim Roach, after winning a six-candidate Republicans primary.
If, as expected, he resigns, forcing a special election, the likely favorite to win the GOP nomination is Chauncey Goss, the son of former Rep. Porter Goss, who came in second to Radel in the 2012 primary, with the backing of that year's vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Former five-term Rep. Mack also could mount a comeback bid.
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