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Petraeus, Allen supported Fla. woman's sister in custody spat

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By Reuters
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 9:48 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director David Petraeus and the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, recently intervened in a child custody battle on behalf of the twin sister of the Florida woman at the center of a scandal that has engulfed both men, court documents show.

Petraeus and Allen wrote letters in September to the District of Columbia Superior Court in support of the twin sister, Natalie Khawam, as she sought to gain more visitation rights with her son, according to a review of the court file.

The letters deepen the mystery of how two Tampa socialites developed close access to top military officials and raise questions about the specific nature of those relationships.

It is unclear why Petraeus and Allen, two of the U.S. military's biggest names, felt the need to formally intervene in a nasty custody dispute of someone each characterized as a family friend.

The court files provide a glimpse into the connections Khawam had built with Washington elite, including Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Defense officials said earlier on Tuesday that Allen is under investigation for alleged inappropriate communication with Khawam's sister, Jill Kelley. Kelley is a fixture in military circles in Tampa, where she was a volunteer social liaison at MacDill Air Force Base.

Allen has denied that the two had a sexual relationship, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Khawam for months has been fighting for greater access to her 3-year-old son with Grayson Wolfe, a former Bush administration official who directed Middle East initiatives and Iraqi reconstruction efforts at the Export-Import Bank.

Wolfe, whose divorce from Khawam was finalized earlier this year, was awarded sole custody of their son in 2011.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz found that Khawam “has extreme personal deficits in the areas of honesty and integrity.” He cited false domestic violence petitions and a lack of honesty in her dealings with her family and employers.

On June 21 of this year, Kravitz ordered Khawam to pay Wolfe $350,000 in attorneys fees and costs, but Khawam continued to push for more access to her son.

In his Sept. 20 letter to the court, Petraeus said he had known Khawam for three years while serving in Tampa, through the friendship he and his wife, Holly, have with Jill Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, a Tampa cancer surgeon.

Petraeus said he had observed Khawam with her son during that time, including when the Petraeuses hosted them for Christmas dinner.

“In each case, we have seen a very loving relationship — a mother working hard to provide her son enjoyable, educational, and developmental experiences,” Petraeus said.

Allen in his Sept. 22 letter said he and his wife, Kathy, came to know Khawam through social functions while stationed at U.S. Central Command in Tampa. “She is a dedicated mother, whose only focus is to provide the necessary support, love and care for her son,” Allen wrote.

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