By Claire McCormack
Friday, November 16, 2012
The recent CIA scandal is now bringing to the surface a contentious child custody battle that overlooked allegations of domestic violence from Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley's twin sister.
Credit: Photo by Ensign Haraz Ghanbari, DVIDSHUB on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
(WOMENSENEWS)--An increasingly complex tale of sex, secrets and politics is now highlighting a contentious child custody battle in District of Columbia courts.
The two spouses fighting over the custody of their infant son are only tangentially related to the international scandal that forced the Nov. 9 resignation of the head of the CIA. However, the case is now likely to be very high profile, with the couple due back in court on Dec. 14.
The former top military officer in Afghanistan, David Petraeus, quit his CIA post after it became known that he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The discovery of their intimacy was the result of an FBI investigation into threatening emails sent to two people close to Petraeus.
The emails were sent to Jill Kelley, a Tampa, Fla., resident who often hosted parties for the military's top brass, and Gen. John Allen, the top commander of the troops in Afghanistan who replaced Petraeus when he left to become CIA chief.
Kelley complained about the threatening emails she received to a friendly FBI agent. A similar email received by Allen became part of the investigation. The FBI came to the conclusion that Broadwell was the author of the emails and she and Petraeus were intimate.
This week, it was revealed that both Petraeus and Allen had written letters to a Washington, D.C., court on behalf of Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam, involved in a custody dispute.
Allen met Khawam, 37, when he was deputy commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, where they attended social functions. Petraeus said he met Khawam three years ago through Kelley.
Both men said she was a loving mother and asked the judge in the case to drop difficult visitation restrictions, reported the Associated Press. "In light of Natalie's maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child, I humbly request your reconsideration of the existing, mandated custody settlement," Allen said.
The bitter separation of Khawan from Grayson Wolfe, documented in court papers, reveals that Khawan repeatedly accused her husband of domestic violence towards both her and their 3-year-old son – all of which has been ignored by judges sitting in on the case.
In August 2009, D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge Fern Flanagan Saddler, the first judge on the case, expressly excluded all evidence of domestic violence, according to an affidavit filed by Holly Petraeus, spouse of the former head of the CIA, a summary of which was made available to Women's eNews by advocates following the case.
"I just don't want you going into whether there was domestic violence, did he hit her, did he hear screaming, because frankly whether somebody heard screaming or not is not going to help me in determining whether I have jurisdiction," Judge Saddler said during an early hearing, according a court transcript summary obtained. The judge also refused to hear evidence about alcoholism or interactions with the couple's child.
In 2011, relying on the first judge's finding that no domestic violence had occurred, D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz criticized Khawam for her demeanor and said her "misrepresentations about virtually everything" would continue.
Kravitz dismissed her claims of abuse as "an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations" against Wolfe that were "numerous," "extraordinary" and "so distorted that they defy any common sense view of reality," reported the Associated Press.
Late last year Kravitz awarded Wolfe with custody of the couple's son, John, and also ordered that Khawam cover his legal bills amounting to $350,000.
In April 2012, Khawam filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 after racking up over $3 million in debt revealed in federal court records.
Wolfe, a partner at Akkadian Private Ventures, a Washington, D.C., firm specializing in creating and financing infrastructure projects, has served in numerous positions in presidential, federal and state political campaigns.
Claire Mc Cormack is a reporter based in Dublin, Ireland, on a current work assignment in New York.
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