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20 Nov, 2013 16:14

Rob Ford not alone: US congressman pleads guilty to cocaine possession

Rob Ford not alone: US congressman pleads guilty to cocaine possession

United States Rep. Trey Radel (R-Florida) pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in Washington, DC, to possession of cocaine, a misdemeanor, hours after it was reported that he had been arrested in the nation’s capital weeks earlier.

Radel, 37, was fined $250 and will serve a year of probation.

"I've hit a bottom," Radel said at District of Columbia Superior Court early Wednesday, according to USA Today.

When it was reported on Tuesday that Radel had been charged for the crime, he issued a statement of apology. “I'm profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida. I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice,” he wrote. “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 elected only last year to serve Florida’s nineteenth district in the US Congress, but has nonetheless managed to make a splash in the short time he’s spent representing a section of the state that includes the cities of Fort Myers, Naples and Cape Coral. Radel has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and has talked openly about the interests he has that are rather rare for a politician — namely rap music and poking fun of the SkyMall shopping catalog while traveling by air. On Oct. 24 alone, he posted 13 photos to his Twitter account of SkyMall products, complete with commentary.

According to the Associated Press, Radel was busted last month in DC shortly after he purchased cocaine from a dealer who had been in touch with law enforcement. Police had been investigating a larger drug operation in DC when a source came forward and said one of his clients was a member of Congress. That dealer arranged to sell to Radel on Oct. 29, and shortly after the buy the congressman was confronted by authorities at his local residence.

“Later that night, federal authorities went to his apartment and informed him that he would be facing criminal charges related to his purchase of cocaine,” the AP reported on Tuesday, nearly one month after Radel was busted.

Radel quickly hired a defense attorney to negotiate charges, a senior Drug Enforcement Administration official told USA Today, and police never had handcuff Radel or take him to jail.

"Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

The latest drug scandal to rock congressional politics in the US comes in the midst of a similar one north of the border in Canada that has been unable to escape headlines in recent weeks. There in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has encountered a whirlwind of criticism and calls to resign after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Earlier this week, the Toronto City Council stripped Ford of most of his mayoral powers. Radel has not yet indicated plans for resignation, saying in a statement that he will enter treatment.

If Radel had been arrested in Florida for cocaine possession and not in the capital, he could have faced felony charges and would have lost his right to vote if convicted. In DC, Radel stood against a maximum sentence of 180 days and/or a fine of $1,000.

Reporters at CBS were quick to note that Radel is among the cosponsors tied to H.R. 1695, or the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which would give judges more flexibility with regards to sentencing criminals in cases that involve mandatory minimums.