WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, the Fort Myers Republican who was busted buying cocaine from an undercover officer in Washington last month, said Thursday he will not resign, defying calls from local and state Republicans.
"I love what I do and I'm going to return to what I do, what you sent me to do in Washington, D.C.," Radel said in Cape Coral.
The 37-year-old former TV reporter blamed his troubles on alcoholism and insisted he had used cocaine only a "handful" of times, repeatedly dodging questions about his drug use and who he was with the night of the bust.
In a surreal news conference, streamed live on the Internet, reporters asked Radel if he had ever been "high or drunk" while voting ("never," he answered) and about his support for legislation requiring welfare recipients to be drug tested, to which he said it would be good for members of Congress to be tested, too.
Radel spoke after emerging from an addiction treatment center in Naples. He did not specifically say when he would return, but the House is on holiday recess until the second week of January.
On Nov. 21, Radel admitted in a District of Columbia courtroom to buying 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover police officer. A judge sentenced him to one year of probation.
According to authorities and court documents, on Oct. 29 Radel and an acquaintance went to a restaurant in the Dupont Circle area of Washington and met a man, who was an undercover police officer. The officer offered to sell Radel 3.5 grams of cocaine for $250. Outside, as federal agents approached, Radel dropped the cocaine in the street.
"The defendant agreed to speak with federal agents about what had just taken place and invited them to his apartment," court documents state. "There, he voluntarily admitted that he had purchased the cocaine. The defendant also retrieved and provided to the agents a vial of cocaine that he had in his apartment."
Despite the arrest, the news did not surface until Nov. 19. In between, Radel used social media as if nothing happened and even held a fundraiser.