'Hip-Hop Conservative' Trey Radel Pleads Guilty to Cocaine Possession

The first-term Florida congressman was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday.

Updated, 11:54 a.m., November 20 

Republican Representative Trey Radel pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday and was sentenced to 12 months probation.

The incident likely made him "the first sitting member of Congress charged with a drug offense since then-Rep. Frederick Richmond, D-N.Y., was convicted in 1982 on charges of tax evasion and drug possession," the AP reported.

Radel was busted after coming to the attention of federal agents due to prior cocaine-using incidents. Reported Politico, which first broke the story of Radel's transgression:

The story of how Radel ended up in a D.C. courthouse involves undercover federal agents, and a drug sting, according to the U.S attorney. Around 10 p.m. on Oct. 29, Radel met with an acquaintance with whom he had used cocaine and an undercover federal agent at a Dupont Circle restaurant. He invited the pair back to his D.C. apartment, but they declined. Radel went into a car with the undercover federal agent when he said he had cocaine to sell. Radel tried to buy 3.5 grams of cocaine for $250 — he handed the undercover officer $260, according to court documents. When he left the car, Radel was approached by uniformed federal officers and the Republican dropped the cocaine. They then went back to Radel’s apartment, where there was more cocaine, according to the prosecutor and court documents.

Radel has drawn attention since joining Congress this year for his unusually informal public persona.

In July, the 37-year-old went on a mini-media blitz about his love of music, penning a piece for BuzzFeed explaining "Why I'm a Hip Hop Conservative" and writing about discovering rap as "a young, rebellious kid. "

Speaking with NowThis News that month, Radel said Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" is the song that best reflects the situation in Washington—because in many ways it "reflects the conservative message of having a heavy-handed government."

"Tupac is what I'm going to be listening to in my car. Biggie is at the party," he told NowThis News.

In calling himself a "hip-hop conservative," Radel was trying to rebrand a political philosophy not known for its cool and tie it to a musical form has been for decades a flashpoint for controversy among Washington politicians.

Now he's going to have a different sort of rebranding project on his hands, as he enters rehab.

Radel represents Florida's 19th congressional district, which includes Sanibel, Naples, and Marco Island on the Western side of the state.

"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,” Radel said in a statement Tuesday.

"This unfortunate event does have a positive side," he continued. "It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling.  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.

"Please keep my family in your prayers."

Jump to comments
Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Death-Defying Origins of Bungee Jumping

"We had this old potato sack and I filled it up with rocks and dropped it over the side. It just hit the water, split, dropping all the stones. And that was our test."

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Is Trading Stocks for Suckers?

If you think you’re smarter than the stock market, you’re probably either cheating or wrong


I Spent Half My Life Making a Video Game

How a childhood hobby became a labor of love


The Roughest, Toughest Race in the World

"Sixty hours. No sleep. Constant climbing and descending. You're out there by yourself. All day and night."


The Gem of the Pacific Northwest

A short film explores the relationship between the Oregon coast and the people who call it home.


Single-Tasking Is the New Multitasking

Trying to do too many internet things at once makes it hard to get anything done at all.



New Zealand in HD

The country's diverse landscapes, seen in dreamy time-lapse footage



More in Politics

Just In