Fla. socialite at center of general's sex scandal

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 10:17 am •  Published: November 14, 2012
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — When news vans camped outside her stately home, a Florida socialite tied to the Gen. David Petraeus sex scandal fell back on her informal credentials as a social ambassador for Tampa society and top military brass: She asked police for diplomatic protection.

In the phone call to authorities, Jill Kelley, a party hostess and unofficial social liaison for leaders of the U.S. military's Central Command in Tampa, cited her status as an honorary consul general while complaining about news vans that had descended on her two-story brick home overlooking Tampa Bay.

"You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well," she told the 911 dispatcher Monday.

Nearly all lines in the increasingly tangled sex scandal involving Petraeus lead back to Kelley, whose complaint about anonymous, threatening emails triggered the FBI investigation that led to the general's downfall as director of the CIA. And now Kelley is in the middle of an investigation of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan over alleged "inappropriate communications" between the two.

Kelley's friendship with Petraeus and his wife began when the general arrived in Tampa about 2008. Kelley and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon, had moved to the area a few years earlier and threw a welcome party at their home, a short distance from Central Command headquarters, introducing the new Central Command chief and his wife Holly to Tampa's elite, according to staffers who served with Petraeus.

Such friendships among senior military commanders and prominent local community leaders are common at any base, a symbiotic relationship where the officers invite top locals to exclusive military events and functions, and the invitees respond by providing private funding to support troops with everything from morale-boosting "Welcome Home" parades to assistance for injured troops.

She also met Gen. John Allen while he was at Central Command, and now investigators are looking at 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Kelley and Allen, some of which have been described as "flirtatious." The general has denied any wrongdoing.

For her part, Kelley has taken a low profile since Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public. The Kelleys have retained high-powered Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who did not immediately return a call.

On Tuesday, Kelley could be seen through the large windows of her South Tampa home. In the driveway was a silver Mercedes with a license plate marked "Honorary Consul." Kelley's identical twin sister, Natalie Khawam, also lives there.

South Tampa is a conservative Southern community of big houses, big bank accounts, garden clubs and wives who pride themselves on volunteer work. A lot of the brass from MacDill Air Force Base, where Central Command is headquartered, live or socializes in South Tampa, and helping members of the military is a major volunteer activity.

Former Mayor Pam Iorio said she went to several parties to benefit the military at the Kelleys' home, and they drew MacDill's top brass, including Petraeus. But they were by far not the only parties held around the city for MacDill's officers.

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