Tampa socialite fighting back in Petraeus scandal
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Tampa socialite embroiled in the scandal that cost CIA Director David Petraeus his job fought back Tuesday after more than two weeks of silence as her attorneys released emails, telephone recordings and other material that they say show she never tried to exploit her friendship with Petraeus.
Jill Kelley, through her attorneys, went on the attack against a New York businessman who accused her of incompetence in her work trying to set up a deal he was negotiating with South Korean companies; an attorney who accused her of name-dropping and of being a social climber; and the FBI agent who first leaked her name in connection with the Petraeus scandal.
Kelley, 37, became the focus of national media attention earlier this month after it was revealed that she was the recipient of anonymous emails from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer and mistress.
Broadwell allegedly told Kelley she should stay away from the former general and Gen. John Allen, who had replaced Petraeus as leader of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus and Allen had become friends with Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, a noted cancer surgeon, when the generals served at U.S. Central Command, which is headquartered at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base. Kelley became an unofficial social ambassador for the base, hosting numerous parties for the officers.
The scandal this week cost Kelley her appointment as an honorary consul for the South Korean government, which she had gotten because of her friendship with Petraeus. The Koreans said she had misused the title in her personal business dealings.
Kelley’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist letter to New York businessman Adam Victor; a complaint to the Florida bar against Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, and a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office demanding that it investigate to find out who in the FBI leaked her name to the news media. Representatives of attorney Abbe Lowell emailed copies of the letters to The Associated Press.
In one of the letters, Lowell asks W. Stephen Muldrow, the assistant U.S. Attorney in Tampa, why Jill and Scott Kelley’s names were released in the course of the FBI’s investigation of Petraeus and Broadwell. Lowell said federal privacy laws could be applicable to the couple’s information.
“As you know, there are several rules and laws that seek to protect United States citizens against such leaks,” Lowell wrote.
He also wanted to know whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office was investigating the source of the leaks.
“You no doubt have seen the tremendous attention that the Kelleys have received in the media,” wrote Lowell. “All they did to receive this attention was to let law enforcement know that they had been the subjects of inappropriate and potentially threatening behavior by someone else.”
Another letter spoke of a business deal that Kelley tried to broker with South Korea.
Kelley met Victor in late August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where they discussed having Kelley represent Victor’s company on a coal-gasification deal being negotiated with South Korean companies.
On Aug. 30, according to the documents provided by Lowell’s office, Victor sent Kelley an email saying his company was seeking bids from four major Korean firms — Samsung, Hyundai, GS and GK — and that he expected the bidding to potentially reach $3 billion.
There are several back-and-forth emails through mid-September as Victor and Kelley tried to negotiate a fee for her work, with Kelley saying she was seeking 2 percent of the deal and Victor trying to clarify what she meant.
There were no other emails until Victor sent one Nov. 9, when Kelley’s name surfaced in the Petraeus scandal. He wrote two more times after that before she responded.
When she finally did, he sent back another email in which he remarked, “When I heard about Petraeus, I thought of you.” In a follow-up email, he asked if she was still in a position to help with Korea. She didn’t respond.
In a Nov. 14 interview with the AP, Victor said it had become clear that Kelley was not a skilled negotiator and that he had wasted his time dealing with her.
In a letter released Tuesday and dated Nov. 21, Lowell accused Victor of seeking his “15 minutes of fame” by talking to the news media about his client. Lowell said Victor had defamed Kelley with his clients and misstated her desire for 2 percent of the profits by saying she wanted 2 percent of the entire deal. Lowell also accused Victor of unspecified inappropriate behavior toward Kelley.
“If you want to continue seeking publicity for yourself, that is one thing,” Lowell wrote to Victor. “However, if you do that by maligning a person, that is something else.” He then accused Victor of casting Kelley in a false light and suggested his attorney contact Lowell to discuss the matter.
Victor told the AP late Tuesday that he never accused Kelley of wrongdoing, only that she was naive and not an experienced negotiator. He also said his female assistant was present every time he met with Kelley.
“It’s not a crime to be a novice,” Victor said. “I don’t know why they are talking to me.”
The third letter was sent from Kelley’s attorney Tuesday to the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program, which handles complaints about lawyers on behalf of the Florida Bar. In that letter, Lowell accused Cohen of breaking attorney-client privilege by publicly speaking about conversations he had with Kelley in 2009 while representing her in a dispute she had with a tenant. In those conversations, Lowell said, they discussed her friendships with various military personnel.
Kelley’s sister, Natalie Khawam, once worked as an attorney in Cohen’s firm and later sued him for sexual harassment and breach of contract. In court responses, Cohen said Khawam “has a judicially documented recent history and continuing propensity for the commission of perjury.”
Cohen said Tuesday evening that he had not seen Lowell’s complaint letter and that Kelley had “lost the battle in the court of public opinion.”
“No matter how many high-priced lawyers and publicists she employs, she has been exposed for what she is,” he said.
Prior to Tuesday, Kelley, her attorney and her publicist had only publicly addressed the situation once, in a statement to the news media when the scandal first broke.
Spencer reported from Miami.
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