A Tampa socialite’s federal lawsuit over an investigation that led to the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus is collapsing after her lawyers asked a judge Friday to let them withdraw from the case.
The lawyers cited irreconcilable differences, just weeks after the Justice Department declined a secret $4.35 million settlement proposal.
Jill Kelley, along with her husband, Scott, had sued the government in June 2013 in Washington, alleging that officials violated the U.S. Privacy Act by disclosing information about them during the FBI's investigation of Petraeus.
The first signs that Sidley Austin LLP, a prominent corporate law firm, and Sands Anderson PC, which handled related parts of the lawsuit, intended to abandon the case were in a brief court docket entry directing Kelley by next week to hire new lawyers, object to hers quitting or advise the judge that she planned to represent herself going forward. In a different court filing Friday, both firms formally and openly asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to permit them to quit. They cited local court rules that apply in cases of "irreconcilable differences between the lawyer and client."
The Justice Department last summer offered to settle Kelley's claims, but she declined the deal. Sidley lawyers more recently proposed a $4.35 million settlement but the Justice Department in late February declined to pay that amount and abruptly ended further negotiations, saying it suddenly viewed the case "in a much different way than when we made offers of judgment that your clients did not accept," according to communications obtained by The Associated Press.
Kelley said Friday in a written statement that it was "truly unfortunate that both monetary and governmental pressures have forced our counsel to file a motion to withdraw."
The New York Post reported Wednesday that Kelley was writing a book about her experiences, titled "Collateral Damage," and that it would be published soon.
Lawyers for Kelley did not immediately return phone messages Friday from the AP. The Justice Department declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
Sidley Austin told the judge it would still be owed any money that Kelley might win in a future settlement or judgment against the government, but it did not specify its fees or litigation costs so far.
Kelley's lawyers had originally sought to file their request to withdraw privately under seal. The judge said that was inappropriate. She noted intense publicity that has surrounded the case and blamed Kelley and her lawyers for some of the news coverage.
"The case is a matter of public record, and indeed, its filing and the events that have transpired thereafter have been broadly publicized by plaintiffs themselves and/or members of their legal team," the judge wrote.
Jill Kelley had complained to the FBI in 2012 when an unknown person sent her harassing emails. Her complaint triggered a criminal investigation that led agents to Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer. Broadwell had been having an affair with him.
Jill Kelley's name and some harassing emails were disclosed on Nov. 11, 2012, to reporters amid the sensational disclosures about Petraeus, a former Army general. Two days later, she was linked to Marine Gen. John R. Allen, then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Pentagon officials acknowledged in depositions that they developed a "press plan" with members of an unspecified delegation from the White House in November 2012 to tell reporters that emails between Allen and Jill Kelley were "potentially inappropriate" and to suggest that the two had a sexual relationship. She has denied this, and Allen later was exonerated by the Pentagon's inspector general.