WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel is apologizing to his constituents after being busted on a cocaine possession charge, acknowledging he also struggles with alcoholism and intends to seek treatment and counseling.
The 37-year-old freshman Republican was charged with cocaine possession Tuesday after what a federal law enforcement official described as a "buy and bust" operation. Radel was scheduled to appear Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court.
In a statement expressing regret, Radel made no mention of his political future but said he had made an "extremely irresponsible choice" and had let down his family and his constituents.
Authorities allege that Radel knowingly possessed cocaine on Oct. 29. A one-sentence charging document did not add any details about the allegations.
A Drug Enforcement Administration official said Radel allegedly bought cocaine from an undercover agent in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood on Oct. 29. Later that night, federal authorities went to Radel's apartment and informed him that he would be facing criminal charges related to the purchase.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the case in his own name, said Radel was identified to authorities as a cocaine buyer by his suspected dealer. The dealer had been arrested previously as part of a separate drug investigation led by a federal task force.
"In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions," Radel said in a statement.
"However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling," he added. "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."
The cocaine possession charge, a misdemeanor, carries a statutory maximum of six months in prison and a fine of $1,000. Radel appears to be the first sitting member of Congress charged with a drug offense since former Rep. Frederick Richmond, D-N.Y., was convicted in 1982 on charges of tax evasion and drug possession.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the allegations are a matter for the courts.
"Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family and his constituents," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Radel was elected in 2012 to represent Florida's 19th Congressional District, which includes the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers and Naples. He was a radio host before becoming a congressman. He identifies himself on his Twitter profile as a "Hip Hop conservative" and "lover of (hash)liberty," and his Twitter account has remained active in the past few weeks, including on the day of the bust.
Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said he was disappointed in Radel but glad that he was seeking help.