Florida Tea Party congressman to be in court on drug charge

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2013 6:39 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Trey Radel, a Tea Party Republican from Florida, is due to be arraigned Wednesday in a Washington, D.C., court on a misdemeanor charge of drug possession, according to court documents.

The drug possession charge involved cocaine in an October 29 incident, according to several media reports citing a second D.C. Superior Court document.

In a statement, Radel, 37, apologized to his family and constituents in southwest Florida, saying that he struggled "with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice."

Radel, a freshman member of Congress who calls himself a "Hip Hop Conservative, Lover of #liberty" on his Twitter page, faces a possible six months in jail.

"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," he said, adding that he would be seeking treatment and counseling.

Before running for Congress, Radel hosted a conservative TV and radio talk show in Florida.

The Tea Party is a conservative political movement that opposes higher taxes and big federal government.

Had he been arrested in Florida, where cocaine possession is a felony, Radel could be facing even more serious legal problems, including loss of his voting rights and the right to carry a firearm.

In Florida, possession of any amount of cocaine is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. "First time offenders are generally allowed to participate in a Drug Court, where they receive outpatient treatment for a year and then the charges are dismissed," said David Weinstein, a former state prosecutor.

(Reporting by David Adams and Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Jackie Frank)