Update, 11/12/12, 10:43 p.m. EST: The third paragraph of this story has been revised to include comment from Chadbourne & Parke’s Abbe Lowell about how he came to represent Jill Kelley.
Chadbourne & Parke white-collar criminal defense heavyweight Abbe Lowell has joined the fray surrounding the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus, who stepped down Friday in light of the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealing that Petraeus had an extramarital affair with his biographer.
Several news outlets reported Monday that Lowell is representing Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman who complained that she was receiving threatening emails, which turned out to be from Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate who chronicled Petraeus’s life in a book published in January that she coauthored. Investigation into the emails led to the discovery of the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell.
Judy Smith, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis communications manager working for Kelley, confirmed Lowell’s involvement in the case to The Am Law Daily. Lowell himself told The Am Law Daily via email late Monday that he took on the matter as the result of a longstanding relationship with the Kelleys: “I have known the Kelley family for 10 years and when they had a D.C. issue some months ago, they called me because they knew I was here,” he wrote.
A government official speaking to the Associated Press on Sunday publicly identified Kelley, who had previously been referred to simply as a woman who was not Petraeus’s wife. According to USA Today, Kelley is a volunteer social liaison to Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base who has attended social gatherings and become friends with the Petraeus family over the years (Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, is a lawyer in Florida).
The affair has resulted in a swift fall from grace for Petraeus, 60, who became the CIA head in September 2011 after a decorated military career that saw him leave the Army as a four-star general with 37 years of service, including key roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Petraeus has been married to his wife, Holly Petraeus, for 38 years. The pair have two children and Holly Petraeus has become known for her work on behalf of military families, most recently through a role at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Broadwell, 40, is also married and has two young children. A former spokesman for Petraeus told ABC News that the affair began several months after his August 2011 retirement from the Army and ended this summer.
Furor over Petraeus’s affair by Monday turned into an outcry over how the FBI handled the inquiry and why, even though the agency knew about the affair in late summer, the information was not revealed outside of the FBI and U.S. Justice Department until last week. According to a detailed article in the New York Times outlining the FBI investigation, the agency traced the threatening emails sent to Kelley from Broadwell, whose inbox was then searched to reveal salacious emails between herself and Petraeus. The FBI concluded that its initial concerns over a security breach were not justified, according to the Times, which is why they did not immediately act on the information.
In a statement released by Smith, the Kelley family—including Scott Kelley, a cancer surgeon, and the couple’s three daughters—said they have been friends with Petraeus for more than five years and that, “We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.”
So far, no lawyers’ names have been idenitified as representing either Petraeus or Broadwell, who has not publicly commented.
As previously noted by The Am Law Daily, Chadbourne’s Lowell, who splits his time between Washington, D.C., and New York, has a string of high-profile representations on his resume.
During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, Lowell served as chief investigative counsel to Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although more often tied to the Democratic Party, Lowell also represented Jack Abramoff, the former Greenberg Traurig lawyer and Republican lobbyist who in 2006 pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. Lowell also represented Republican Nevada governor Jim Gibbons, who was cleared of wrongdoing in 2008 by the Justice Department after an investigation that looked into whether he exchanged military contracts for gifts, and former Republican New York state senator Joseph Bruno in the successful appeal of a federal fraud conviction (A retrial in Bruno’s case is scheduled for February).
Lowell also appeared on the rotating cast of lawyers representing disgraced former U.S. Senator John Edwards in the run-up to his eventual mistrial on charges that Edwards violated federal campaign finance laws during his bid for president in 2008.