|Rep. Radel to Appear in Court Today on Cocaine Charge|
|By JOHN PARKINSON (@jparkABC) and STEVEN PORTNOY (@stevenportnoy)||Nov 19, 2013, 11:30 PM|
Trey Radel, the Florida Republican congressman charged with cocaine possession, is expected to appear in a Washington, D.C., court later today.
The freshman congressman was the target of an undercover sting operation, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Radel, according to sources, first came on the radar of federal authorities when a suspected cocaine dealer under investigation by a joint Drug Enforcement Administration/FBI task force told agents that one of his customers was the Florida rep.
DEA and FBI agents then set up the undercover drug sting.
Radel, 37, allegedly purchased a small quantity of cocaine from an undercover federal agent in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. but was not arrested, according to a law enforcement official. Agents maintained their cover and Radel went home. Later that evening, federal agents visited Radel at his home and advised him he had just purchased cocaine from a federal agent.
The charging document states that Radel "did unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally possess a quantity of cocaine."
Radel was not cuffed and arrested, but discussions between prosecutors and his defense attorney soon began.
Radel, who recently supported legislation forcing food stamps recipients to pass a drug test before receiving benefits, also co-sponsored a bill lowering mandatory minimum sentencing for some drug offenders.
Radel released a statement Tuesday saying, "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. 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.
"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. Please keep my family in your prayers."
House Speaker John Boehner, who has little tolerance for such shenanigans, has not asked Radel to resign.
"Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts," Boehner said through a spokesman Tuesday. "Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family and his constituents."
Radel, who has missed all votes in the House so far this week, has pledged to get help.
"This unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling," Radel stated. "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."
If he's found guilty, the U.S. Attorney's office said Radel could face a maximum of 180 days in jail, an $1,000 fine or both.
Two days after his incident, Radel was photographed with his family wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume for Halloween.
In an interview earlier this year with the newspaper Roll Call, Radel identified his favorite vacation spot outside of his home state as Cartegena, Colombia, an expensive coastal city in a country notorious for cocaine trafficking.
Radel was elected in 2012 to represent Florida's 19th Congressional District, which includes the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers and Naples. Radel was a radio host before becoming a congressman. He identifies himself on his Twitter profile as a "Hip Hop conservative" and "lover of #liberty."
ABC News' Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.