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By CAITLIN JOHNSTON
ANNAPOLIS -- The twin sister of the Tampa, Fla., woman linked to Gen. David Petraeus' resignation as director of the CIA is being sued in Montgomery County Circuit Court for about $100,000 in unpaid legal fees.
Natalie Khawam, sister of Jill Kelley, accrued the fees during a messy divorce and custody battle in Washington’s Superior Court from 2009 through November 2011. Ten months after Khawam lost custody of her son, both Petraeus and his former deputy, Gen. John Allen, wrote letters supporting Khawam's appeal of the custody terms, calling her a dedicated mother and making special note of her maturity and integrity.
“…We have seen a very loving relationship – a Mother working hard to provide her son enjoyable, educational, and developmental experiences,” Petraeus wrote in September. “In view of this, it is unfortunate, in my view, that her interaction with her son has been so limited by the custody settlement.”
The letters from Petraeus and Allen contrast with the judge's order in Nov. 2011 giving full custody to the boy's father.
Khawam "is a psychologically unstable person whose unsteady moral and ethical compass and apparent lack of awareness of her own shortcomings make it impossible for her successfully to navigate her surroundings in a consistent and sustainable way,” wrote Associate Judge Neal E. Kravitz in his order following a 19-day custody hearing.
In his order, Kravitz also found that Khawam “has extreme personal deficits in the areas of honesty and integrity” and has a “willingness to say anything, even under oath, to advance her own personal interests at the expense of others.”
Khawam's sister Kelley is at the center of the scandal leading to Petraeus’ resignation. Kelley complained to the FBI that she received anonymous emails warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The complaint led to the FBI investigation that uncovered the extramarital affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer.
David Felsen, the attorney representing Khawam's former attorneys in the Montgomery County case over legal fees, said Khawam tried to stall the case at every turn.
“She was never agreeable to discussions,” Felsen said. “It was just stonewalling. She used every point in the book.”
Gene Policastri, the attorney representing Khawam in the Montgomery County case could not discuss the case with Capital News Service without permission from his client.
Allen and Petraeus’ letters, sent on Sept. 22 and 20, respectively, described only positive qualities.
Allen said he came to know Khawam when he served as deputy commander at U.S. Central Command in Tampa and interacted with her and her son at multiple command social functions.
“In light of Natalie’s maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child, I humbly request your consideration of the existing mandated custody settlement,” Allen wrote.
Allen is reported to have exchanged emails with Khawam’s sister Kelley.
Khawam, who lives with Kelley in Tampa, is involved in other lawsuits in Florida. In July, she sued her former employer, Barry Cohen, a prominent Tampa lawyer, and other defendants, on six counts, including sexual harassment and breach of contract claims.
Cohen fought back, asking the court to dismiss her complaint as a sham and to fine Khawam at least $500,000 for a bad faith filing. Cohen argued Khawam’s complaint contained “lie after unabashed lie.”
Cohen also cited Khawam’s April 2012 bankruptcy filing, which stalled the Montgomery County case. In the Florida bankruptcy filing, Khawam claims $3.6 million in liabilities.
Capital News Service's Colleen Jaskot and Dana Amihere contributed to this report.