By Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY
The twin sister of the woman whose e-mails embroiled her in scandals involving Gen. John Allen and former CIA director David Petraeus appeared briefly at a Washington news conference Tuesday but said nothing to explain how Petraeus and his wife came to write letters on her behalf in a custody battle.
Natalie Khawam stood silently as high-profile attorney Gloria Allred read a statement.
Petraeus and his wife, Holly, "have known Natalie and her son personally for many years and have had numerous opportunities to observe them together," Allred said. "They have loved Natalie's child and emotionally supported her and her son through the toughest time in Natalie and her son's life. They both spoke up through their court declarations in support of Natalie and what a loving, protective mom she was. "
Last year, a judge awarded permanent custody of Khawam's son to the child's father, Grayson Wolfe of Washington, and limited Khawam to three supervised daytime visits a week. The couple divorced April 6, court papers show.
During a lengthy custody dispute, a court-appointed psychologist found Wolfe had "superior parenting abilities" to Khawam, a judge wrote. Wolfe "is far healthier psychologically," than Khawam, he said.
The psychologist also found that Wolfe "is dealing as rationally and productively as one could expect, given the incredible upheaval that has occurred in his life," but described Khawam as "an illogical thinker who has a profoundly distorted view of Mr. Wolfe and of much of the world around her," the judge wrote.
Allred said the court's "onerous, unfair and expensive restrictions" placed on Khawam have bankrupted her. Khawam has appealed the decision, Allred said.
During a lengthy custody dispute, a court-appointed psychologist found Wolfe had "superior parenting abilities" and "is far healthier psychologically" than Khawam, the judge wrote. He noted that she lost at least four jobs in the five years following her law school graduation.
Jill Kelley and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon in Tampa, took Khawam in when she left her husband after less than a year of marriage in 2008.
Khawam, a lawyer, began to cry as she tried to read her statement at the media conference held at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.
"My sister Jill and I aren't just twins, we're best friends. We're literally inseparable," Khawam said. "During my darkest times, Jill held the light for me. She and my brother-in-law, Dr. Kelley, took me in with my son when we needed refuge and protection."
Khawam described playing tennis and softball with her sister.
"She played net, and I served," Khawam said. "She was the catcher, and I pitched."
She described Kelley as "the kindest, most generous person I know" and said she planned to love and support her sister "unconditionally."
Kelley touched off the Petraeus scandal when she told the FBI about harassing e-mails that the agency determined came from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer. The investigation led to other e-mails that revealed an affair between Broadwell and Petraeus. Allen, Petraeus' successor as NATO commander in Afghanistan, was drawn in when the probe uncovered a high volume of e-mails between him and Kelley. The Pentagon inspector general is investigating whether they were inappropriate.