Will House Punish Radel for Cocaine Conviction?

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) speaks during a press conference, on Capitol Hill, July 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Dec. 12, 2013, 12:13 p.m.

With its dead­line just days away, the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee was keep­ing mum Thursday on wheth­er it would pro­ceed with an in­quiry in­to a pos­sible House pun­ish­ment against Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., for his mis­de­mean­or co­caine-pos­ses­sion con­vic­tion.

“As a gen­er­al mat­ter, Eth­ics Com­mit­tee meet­ings are held in ex­ec­ut­ive ses­sion, and the com­mit­tee does not com­ment on wheth­er it has met [or will meet] un­less it re­leases a pub­lic state­ment,” said a com­mit­tee spokes­man, Tom Rust.

But oth­er sources con­firmed that the GOP-con­trolled com­mit­tee did meet privately this week on more than one mat­ter — in­clud­ing at least two times on Thursday.

If the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee does choose to pro­ceed with an in­vest­ig­a­tion, po­ten­tial House ac­tions against Radel could range from a “let­ter of re­prov­al” to a re­com­mend­a­tion of ex­pul­sion, a de­cision that would re­quire a full-blown Eth­ics Com­mit­tee in­quiry.

With the House set to ad­journ for the year by Fri­day morn­ing, it is un­likely the eth­ics pan­el will meet again this week.

At the same time, Dec. 19 is the form­al dead­line for it to de­cide what to do in the mat­ter in­volving the 37-year-old fresh­man law­maker, who is be­lieved to be the first sit­ting House mem­ber ar­res­ted on a co­caine charge.

Ac­cord­ing to House rules, the pan­el must either ini­ti­ate its own in­quiry of Radel by “a ma­jor­ity vote of the mem­bers of the Com­mit­tee” or sub­mit a re­port to the House “de­scrib­ing its reas­ons for not ini­ti­at­ing an in­quiry and de­scrib­ing the ac­tions, if any, that the Com­mit­tee has taken in re­sponse to the al­leg­a­tions.” Giv­en the vote re­quire­ments, it is safe to as­sume any ac­tion on the mat­ter would oc­cur while the House is in ses­sion.

And House rules state that such a de­cision must oc­cur “not later than 30 days after a mem­ber of the House is in­dicted or oth­er­wise form­ally charged with crim­in­al con­duct in any Fed­er­al, State or loc­al court….”

Radel was caught buy­ing drugs in Wash­ing­ton in a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion on Oct. 29. But he was not form­ally charged un­til Nov. 19, and he pleaded guilty to the mis­de­mean­or charge the next day, re­ceiv­ing a sen­tence of one year of pro­ba­tion and a $250 fine.

Court doc­u­ments say he bought 3.5 grams of co­caine from an un­der­cov­er po­lice of­ficer in Wash­ing­ton’s Dupont Circle.

Neither Radel’s of­fice nor his law­yer re­spon­ded to mes­sages this week. Radel has taken a leave of ab­sence from his le­gis­lat­ive du­ties with an eye to re­turn­ing in Janu­ary, and he has vol­un­tar­ily en­rolled in an in­pa­tient sub­stance-ab­use pro­gram.

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