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FBI agent's testimony bolsters Jill Kelley's claims in defamation case

Jill Kelley had hosted Gen. David Petraeus and other military leaders at her home.
Jill Kelley had hosted Gen. David Petraeus and other military leaders at her home.
Published Apr. 21, 2015

TAMPA — The FBI agent who triggered an investigation of the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell sex scandal characterizes Tampa socialite Jill Kelley as a woman twice victimized — first by Broadwell and then by the FBI.

Special Agent Frederick Humphries II said in a sworn deposition obtained by CNN that he couldn't understand why his superiors displayed animosity toward Kelley. He considered that it might be politically motivated behavior to deflect attention from Petraeus before the 2012 presidential election. Days after the election, Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA over his extramarital affair.

"No one wants to be involved in a case like this during an election cycle," he recalled hearing from a supervisor.

CNN based its report on Humphries' March 20 deposition for a defamation lawsuit filed by Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, who have claims pending against the FBI and the Department of Defense.

She asserts that they violated her privacy, defamed her and improperly gained access to her email, all in a way that hurt her reputation and livelihood.

At the FBI, she was regarded by some as a "femme fatale" and at times was the topic of lewd comments, Humphries said in the deposition. He said he felt compelled to remind colleagues that the Kelleys were victims of cyberstalking.

"I was surprised throughout the process of the marginalization of Mrs. Kelley as a victim in this case," said Humphries, who is still based in Tampa.

He recalled that Steven Ibison, then in charge of the FBI's Tampa office, "kind of rolled his eyes and snorted at the proposal that I said they were victims."

The Kelleys had socialized with Petraeus when he was an Army general in charge of U.S. Central Command in Tampa and with other military leaders, at times hosting them in their Bayshore Boulevard home. The Kelleys also knew the agent socially.

Jill Kelley turned to Humph­ries after hostile emails disparaging her were received by her husband and by four-star Gen. John Allen. The investigation led to Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer and paramour.

While the Justice Department typically protects the names of victims in federal investigations, Kelley's name became public. In the lawsuit, she complains about being cast as the woman at the center of a sex scandal, one alleged to have brought down two generals.

The other was Allen, who retired from the military after an investigation of his own e-mail exchanges with Kelley.

He was cleared of all wrongdoing — but not before someone falsely told Fox News that the exchanges were like phone sex, the lawsuit alleges.

Humphries, according to CNN, testified that he believed someone at FBI headquarters leaked Kelley's name in what "seemed to be a purposeful attempt to discredit both Mrs. Kelley and myself."

The agent said he was "completely blindsided" by a suggestion from then-FBI director Robert Mueller that Humphries was having an inappropriate relationship with Kelley.

David Couvertier, spokesman for the FBI's Tampa office, declined to comment Monday on Humphries' deposition because of the pending litigation.

Jill Kelley and her attorney also declined to comment.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., in 2013. The complaint and an amended complaint named Ibison, Mueller and former CIA director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, among others, but a judge dismissed several claims.