Jill Kelley walks out of deposition in home foreclosure case

TAMPA — Attorneys had gathered in a conference room to question the Tampa socialite who had unwittingly triggered the scandal that ended the career of CIA director David Petraeus.

Jill Kelley's house is in foreclosure, and Kelley appeared at a June 26 deposition in the case.

But Kelley refused to be sworn in, a Regions Bank attorney said. Then she refused to testify, departing with her attorney.

"They're actually leaving the room now and not even listening to me on the record," said Regions attorney Peter Hargitai at the deposition, according to a transcript.

Kelley and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, have refused to testify in the foreclosure case on their posh Bayshore Boulevard home. The couple say a Regions lawyer is threatening to question them about the Petraeus scandal and then release a transcript to the media.

Jill Kelley said in court papers that Hargitai told her, "This deposition is going to be all over the news." The lawyer denied making any threats.

"Plaintiff appears determined to try this matter in the media," a motion by the Kelleys' attorney said.

The couple have demanded that opposing counsel agree to keep any transcript of their testimony sealed, providing no copies to the media or any third party.

Hargitai has refused, though he told the court he has no intention of giving it to the media. But if the deposition is filed in court, it would become available to anyone who wants a copy.

"A deposition is a public record," Hargitai told the Tampa Bay Times in a brief interview.

The attorney said a Hillsborough Circuit Court judge is soon expected to file an order compelling the Kelleys to sit down for a deposition by Sept. 15. Neither the Kelleys nor their attorney, Benjamin Hillard, returned messages seeking comment.

An order has not yet been issued, according to the online docket of the case. The next court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Kelley inadvertently ended Petraeus' career as CIA director when she complained to the FBI about anonymous emails she had received from a woman who turned out to be Petraeus' mistress, Paula Broadwell.

The resulting scandal also damaged Marine Gen. John Allen's career with the revelation that he had exchanged numerous emails with Kelley. He was cleared in a Pentagon investigation but retired from the military.

The Kelleys, according to court filings, have lived in their Bayshore home for more than three years without paying Regions. The bank says it is owed $1.7 million.

The couple say in a counterclaim against the bank that Regions' officials told them not to pay their mortgage so that they might qualify for a loan modification. The bank denies doing that.

As foreclosures go, this one has been uglier than most, with charges and countercharges detailed in court papers.

Regions had filed a lengthy request for documents from the couple, a routine request in a civil case.

"The Kelleys responded that they had possession, custody or control of no relevant documents," the bank said in a June 28 motion. "A non-exhaustive list of the documents the Kelleys purport not to have includes copies of their own note, mortgage, appraisal, phone records, credit report or correspondence with Regions."

Hargitai's motion to compel testimony from the Kelleys asked the court to impose sanctions against them and their attorney.

"The sad truth is that the unscrupulous lawyer often violates the rules of procedure, willy nilly," the motion said. "When called to account for his actions, he fabricates facts and attempts to mitigate his errors at the last possible minute. … His intent is to frustrate the court by creating heated arguments amongst counsel so the court will display hostility toward both lawyers."

The motion added that Regions and its attorneys "will not take the bait."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com.

Jill Kelley walks out of deposition in home foreclosure case 08/28/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 10:01pm]

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