Rep. Trey Radel pleads guilty to cocaine possession, gets probation

Reported by Jacob Carpenter, Naples Daily News

 WASHINGTON — Southwest Florida congressman Trey Radel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession Wednesday morning, receiving a 1-year probation sentence.

Prosecutors said the Republican representative bought $250 worth of cocaine from an undercover investigator and a confidential informant. Radel, who said Tuesday that he's an alcoholic, admitted to making the deal, saying he thought he was purchasing "a drug. Cocaine."

"I apologize for what I've done," Radel said in court. "I think in life I've hit a bottom where I realize I need help."

Radel said he has started drug counseling in Washington, D.C., and plans to return to Southwest Florida for additional treatment. He said he wants to "be a better man, a better husband and to continue serving this country."

The surreal scene in Southwest Florida politics played out on the third floor of a Washington, D.C., courtroom, about three weeks after undercover investigators busted Radel making the cocaine deal. About 40 media members witnessed the hearing, then chased Radel down three flights of stairs as he was whisked into a vehicle and driven away. Radel didn't speak at any length to media after the hearing.

D.C. Superior Senior Judge Robert Tignor handed down the sentence, saying the 1 year of probation is "typical" for first-time offenders, giving defendant a chance "to prove himself."

Radel, dressed in a black suit, while shirt and blue tie, came in to court shortly before 9:30 a.m. He addressed the judge before sentencing.

"I'm so sorry to be here," Radel said. "I know I've let my constituents, my country and my family down."

Prosecutors said the confidential informant told investigators that Radel had purchased, possessed and used cocaine "several" times before.

The drug bust was conducted at about 10 p.m. at a Dupont Circle restaurant in northern Washington D.C. Prosecutors said Radel went into the restaurant, told the informant he had cocaine at his home, and invited the informant and undercover detective back to his apartment to use cocaine. The two men rejected the offer, instead agreeing to sell Radel 3.5 grams of cocaine for $250, prosecutors said.

Radel gave the men $260, then went into the undercover detective's vehicle to receive the drug, prosecutors said. After finishing the transaction, investigators swooped in and Radel dropped the cocaine to the ground, prosecutors said. Radel invited the investigators back to his apartment for an interview, prosecutors said.