A big story in the news today was last night’s arrest of Republican Congressman from Florida Trey Radel for possession of cocaine in DC. Congressman Radel is a freshman tea party congressman who represents the 19th congressional district which covers Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral.
He was arrested after he purchased about 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer. In DC, possession of cocaine is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine. Unlike most people arrested in DC, Congressman Radel immediately plead guilty at his first court date. I did not realize what had happened until I walked into court this morning and saw the media frenzy outside the DC Superior Court.
Congressman Radel was sentenced by Senior Associate Judge Robert S. Tignor (a judge a just appeared in front of yesterday) under provisions of the DC Code that would allow his arrest and subsequent guilty plea to be expunged if he successfully completes probation. Some people refer to this as “probation before judgment” because it puts the defendant on probation before officially entering the judgment. There is a lot of speculation out there as to whether the Congressman got a sweetheart deal with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia because of his position. As a DC criminal defense lawyer who has litigated close to 300 cases in Superior Court, I can unequivocally say that is not the case.