TODAY   |  November 20, 2013

Florida congressman charged with buying cocaine

Trey Radel, a member of the House of Representatives from Florida, will appear in court Wednesday morning for allegedly buying a small amount of cocaine, according to federal investigators. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> in other news, a florida congressman is expected in court today after being charged with cocaine possession. pete williams is at the courthouse in washington d.c. hey, pete. good morning.

>> reporter: matt, good morning to you. the congressman that was elected just last fall appears this morning in a local washington d.c. courtroom accused of buying a small amount of cocaine in late october. he does not deny it.

>> hello. my name is trey. how are you doing?

>> reporter: trey radel is no stranger to being in the public eye. elected with 62% of the vote in fort myers florida but facing a judge on drug charges wasn't the attention he wanted. he was observed in late october buying cocaine from a drug ring already under investigation. when ring members were arrested one of them told authorities that the congressman was a customer. federal drug agents say they later watched as radel made a purchase from a member of the ring. radel says a struggle with alcoholism lead 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.

>> i knew washington was broken before coming.

>> they don't have to.

>> reporter: his first campaign and hard fought republican primary ended in victory with support from tea party members. the charge he faces today is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in prison. his florida neighbors responded to word of his arrest.

>> i think it's going to be a new career for him. there's no way to recover from that.

>> reporter: first offenders in these cases usually get probation with the charges later dismissed if there are no more violations. as for what happens next, the house speaker john boehner says that's up to the congressman, his family and his constituents.

>> pete williams outside the courthouse