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The Jill Kelley story may soon come to a TV screen near you

Jill Kelley of Tampa wrote of her role in the David Petraeus case.
Jill Kelley of Tampa wrote of her role in the David Petraeus case.
Published Oct. 4, 2016

Hollywood producer Ron Senkowski was lounging around the pool at the Beirut Four Seasons hotel in Lebanon over the summer when a woman, hearing his American accent, called out to him.

"Out of the blue, this woman yells across the pool," said Senkowski, who has worked with Barry Levinson, Michael Mann and Quentin Tarantino, among others. "She overheard me talking and said she had a book and wanted advice about finding an entertainment attorney."

The woman was Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who recently wrote a memoir about her role in the sex scandal that brought down CIA director David Petraeus over an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Senkowski runs Symply Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based company that turns books into films and television productions.

The two talked for nearly an hour in the pool. Later, Kelley delivered her book, Collateral Damage: Petraeus, Power, Politics and the Abuse of Privacy, to Senkowski. Over meetings with his business partner and Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, bonds were formed and now Senkowski is about to pitch a TV serial to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others in the industry.

"Before any of us left Beirut, we had a deal in place," Senkowski said.

By now, the story is well known. The Kelleys befriended military leaders at MacDill Air Force Base, like Petraeus when he was a four-star general commanding U.S. Central Command, and entertained them at their Bayshore Boulevard home. In June 2012, Scott Kelley began receiving what the Kelleys considered threatening emails. An investigation unearthed the Petraeus-Broadwell affair.

On Nov. 9, 2012, three days after the re-election of President Barack Obama, Petraeus resigned from the CIA. Two days later, Jill Kelley's name was leaked to the media, prompting the couple to sue the government. They eventually dropped the suit.

The controversy also ensnared retired Marine Gen. John Allen, then in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Emails between him and Kelley were investigated by the Defense Department Inspector General's Office, but he was cleared of wrongdoing.

In April 2015, a federal judge ordered Petraeus to pay $100,000 in fines and serve two years of probation for a misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

Investigators say Petraeus provided eight binders to Broadwell that included classified information and then lied about it to the FBI and CIA.

Jill Kelley said the project is designed to bring attention to the issue of privacy rights.

"My scandal illustrates the harms we invite when the same government that unlawfully collected and lied about my emails to the press continues to illegally collect the emails of millions of other innocent citizens," she said.

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Senkowski said he and Michael De Luca, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and producer, are putting together a team of writers ahead of pitching the studios. If it goes forward, Tampa locales like the Kelley's home and the Irish pub Four Green Fields are likely to show up.

The concept, he said, is a limited-run TV series akin to the recent The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. It's a format, he said, that has a lot of cachet in Hollywood these days. An eight- to 10-hour series, he said, allows greater depth of storytelling than a two-hour film.

To that end, Senkowski said he and his writing team would like to do more digging. He expects to reach out to all parties, including Broadwell, Petraeus and Fred Humphries, the Tampa FBI agent who took the initial complaint from the Kelleys and who saw his career damaged, as well.

Humphries, who is still an agent, could not comment, and the FBI declined comment. Petraeus did not return an email by deadline. For her part, Broadwell said there is more to the story than Kelley's view.

"Most individuals involved in this saga have tried to move forward over the past four years with humility," she said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "Jill Kelley, by contrast, chose a different route, seeking notoriety and financial gain at the expense of others' families."

Broadwell said any story that is told "should ultimately include more than one woman's self-serving narrative."

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.


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