Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel (R-FLA) pauses as he meets with local media during a news conference at his district office in Cape Coral, Fla. on Nov. 20, 2013.
Steve Nesius/Reuters

Congressman will take leave of absence after pleading guilty to cocaine possession

Updated

Rep. Trey Radel announced late Wednesday night that he will take a leave of absence to receive treatment for his use of drugs “off-and-on for years” after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. 

I hope, like family, southwest Florida can forgive me for this,” the freshman congressman said in a press conference from his office in Cape Coral, Fl. ”I’ve let them down. But I do believe in faith, forgiveness and redemption. I hope to come out of this a stronger man, a better man for all of you.”

“I’m owning up to my actions, I am taking responsibility and I’m living it very publicly, I’m being held accountable for the decisions that I made in my life. And I am. I have found treatment and I am working on treatment. And like anything in life I have to rebuild that trust…I have to rebuild the trust with southwest Florida, with the constituents and this home that I love,” Radel said. 

The 37-year-old freshman congressman said on a personal note that he feels as though he has “grown up in the public eye of southwest Florida.” He told reporters that he has been struggling with the recent tragic death of his mother, and that she battled alcoholism for many years.

Radel said he received a “wake-up call” to undergo treatment for his disease after pleading guilty Wednesday morning to misdemeanor cocaine possession and being sentenced to a year of probation. 

The congressman was arrested in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood last month as a result of a drug sting operation. Radel “appears to be the only member of Congress to have ever been convicted for cocaine use while in office,” reports NBC News

Radel said at his sentencing in D.C. Superior Court that he plans to enter an inpatient drug treatment program in Naples, Florida.

“Today’s guilty plea emerges from a broader narcotics investigation that brought to light information that a sitting Member of Congress was routinely using and buying cocaine.  Once this information was confirmed, law enforcement could not ignore this illegal conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen.

“Your Honor, I apologize for what I’ve done,” Radel said in court Wednesday. “In life I’ve hit a bottom where I realize I need help. . . . I am so sorry to be here. I know I let my constituents down, my country down and most importantly my family, my wife and my 2-year-old, who doesn’t know it yet.”

Radel first informed House Speaker John Boehner of his arrest Tuesday before the news broke. Boehner’s office is not expected to call for Radel’s resignation or to take any further disciplinary action.

A House farm bill is gathering attention after Rep. Trey Radel, who voted in favor of the House-passed bill that would give states the option to require food stamp recipients to be drug tested, was caught red-handed purchasing cocaine.  

Republican Congressman Richard Hudson introduced the provision in the farm bill which was included in the final version. The House passed the amendment, trumping Democratic opposition.

The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 11/20/13, 11:19 PM ET

Rep. Radel ‘sorry’ for drug use

Florida GOP Rep. Trey Radel held a press conference announcing he will take a leave of absence after a conviction for cocaine possession.

Drugs, Florida and Trey Radel

Congressman will take leave of absence after pleading guilty to cocaine possession

Updated