Monday, November 12, 2012

E-Mail And Arrogance Combine For A Toxic Stew That Takes Down Famed General David Petraeus

David Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus was perhaps the most high-profile U.S. military figure since Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf became household names during the first Gulf War. Petraeus' distinguished career unraveled with reports last week that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, co-author of the general's biography that became a best-seller earlier this year.

A key element of the story surfaced yesterday: FBI investigators became involved when a Florida woman alerted them to harassing e-mails Broadwell had sent to her. The complaint, from Jill Kelley of Tampa, led investigators to Broadwell's e-mail account. And that produced evidence of the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell.

It remains unclear why Broadwell was sending nasty e-mails to Kelley, but reports so far indicate that Kelley and her husband had long been friends with Petraeus and his wife. Published reports point to no signs of a second affair, between Petraeus and Kelley.

The Petraeus story is unfolding by the hour, but we already see a couple of take-home lessons from the affair--and they connect to several of our storylines here at Legal Schnauzer. The lessons?

* E-mail is a stunningly powerful tool for getting at the root of misconduct;

* Arrogance often causes American elites to step in doo-doo that easily could have been avoided.

Let's take a closer look at what regular folks can learn from the Petraeus story:

* E-mail can come back to bite you--Is e-mail the greatest crime-fighting tool ever invented? People who make a living from solving white-collar crimes probably would say yes. And we suspect that applies not only to crimes, but also to civil wrongs and other forms of misconduct where perpetrators do not welcome scrutiny.

We already have addressed this issue by showing that e-mail played a critical role in the National Football League's bounty scandal involving the New Orleans Saints. The very attributes that make e-mail such a splendid communications tool also make it an unmatched weapon for investigators. E-mail is convenient, and it allows for clear, concise communication that invites back and forth. It also leaves a record that is difficult to erase.

How does that last attribute affect wrongdoers and their protectors? I have an answer to that question, based on my own courtroom battles. I've been a plaintiff in two lawsuits--one involving my wrongful termination at an Alabama university, the other involving violations of debt-collection laws--and in both cases, federal judges short-circuited the discovery process, contrary to simple civil procedure.

In the employment case, U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. granted summary judgment to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and various individual defendants without giving me an opportunity to conduct discovery. There was no scheduling meeting, no discovery order, no discovery itself--all of which is required under case law and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

In the debt-collection case, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon allowed limited discovery, but defendants dragged their heels on turning over key documents. We notified the court that discovery was far from complete, and that is all we needed to do under Eleventh Circuit precedent to ensure that summary judgment would not be prematurely granted. But Kallon granted summary judgment anyway, essentially allowing unethical debt collectors to skate without turning over evidence against them.

Paula Broadwell
Why would two judges do that? For one, they are in Alabama, where our federal judiciary is notoriously corrupt. (You can ask former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman about that.) Two, e-mails almost certainly exist in both cases that would lay out a digital "paper trail" of wrongdoing. Federal judges, in Alabama and probably many other states, are prone to protect institutional and corporate interests over those of regular Americans. One way they accomplished that against me (and my wife, who was a party in the debt-collection matter) was to unlawfully deny discovery that would have proven our cases. And with e-mails almost certainly floating in cyberspace, the evidence would have been irrefutable.

As for Petraeus and Broadwell, our bet is that some of their lovey-dovey e-mails make it into the press within a week or two. Will that be embarrassing? Undoubtedly. Could it point to security breaches or other serious misconduct. I wouldn't be surprised.

* The arrogance of elites knows no boundaries--By all accounts, Paula Broadwell is an uber achiever. The 40-year-old married mother of two is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. From a profile published today:

Broadwell's story until now reads like a profile of perfection. 
On Twitter, she describes herself as an author, national security analyst, Army vet, women's rights activist, runner, skier, surfer, wife and "Mom!" 
She is married to Scott Broadwell, an interventional radiologist in Charlotte, "who has saved more lives than she has," said her website,, which has been taken down. They have two young sons.

We obviously are talking about a bright woman here. So how could she behave in such a stupid, reckless fashion? How did she go badly off the tracks?

Broadwell's first mistake, of course, was engaging in an affair with one of the most powerful, high-profile men on the planet. Men and women have been making such mistakes for eons--and the ability of sex, power, fame, and money to cloud judgment is not likely to decline any time soon. So we will more or less give Broadwell a pass on that, especially since the affair might have been more Petraeus' idea than hers. Given that he's 60 and she's 40 (and extremely easy on the eyes), it seems safe to say the general was more than happy to give new meaning to the term "embedded reporter."

But where did Broadwell get the idea of sending nasty e-mails to Jill Kelley? Has Broadwell ever heard of the term "discrete"? Is she aware that e-mails have a way of being traced and passed around? She's supposed to be a security expert?

Broadwell is not the first individual of fine pedigree to behave in inexplicable ways. Let's consider a a few leading characters from our Legal Schnauzer reporting:

* What were Ted Rollins, Rob Riley, and Bill Swatek thinking? -- Rollins grew up in one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, and he has a master's in business administration degree from Duke University, one of our finest citadels of higher learning.

Rollins also has a lot of ugly stuff in his background. He was convicted for assaulting his stepson in Franklin County, North Carolina. He was investigated for possible child sexual abuse, based on a citizen complaint, involving the same stepson. He also has engaged in questionable business practices and allegedly had several extramarital affairs. So when wife No. 2, Sherry Carroll Rollins, sued him in South Carolina where the family lived and jurisdiction was proper, you might think that Ted Rollins would decide to quietly settle the matter--he and his family easily could have made a satisfactory financial offer--adding a confidentiality clause to make sure certain subjects stayed under wraps.

But Ted Rollins didn't want to do that. He wanted to make his wife pay for divorcing him, so he unlawfully got the case shifted to Alabama, where a corrupt judge named D. Al Crowson administered a monumental cheat job to Sherry Rollins and her two daughters. During the proceedings, both Ted Rollins and his billionaire cousin, R. Randall Rollins of Atlanta, almost certainly committed perjury. But criminal activity apparently was worth it in order to get the upper hand on Sherry Rollins in court.

Ted Rollins probably did not count on his ex wife finding an intrepid legal journalist, with a well-read blog, who would research the matter and transmit much of the ugliness about child abuse, perjury, and more to all corners of the blogosphere.

As for Rob Riley, he also is a product of an elite university. The son of former Alabama Governor Bob Riley, Rob Riley earned a law degree at Yale. Did that give him insight on to how to treat his fellow citizens, how to avoid major ethical pitfalls that can come back to bite?

Jill Kelley (right), with her husband,
 Scott, and Holly Petraeus 
The answer apparently is no. He was fined for campaign-finance irregularities related to a company called Triad Management Services, in a case that drew Congressional attention and smelled an awful lot like money laundering. He and his physical-therapy company, Performance Group LLC, face charges of Medicare fraud in a federal whistleblower lawsuit.

Perhaps most importantly, we are in the process of reporting a story that will pull the mask off the Riley political machine--not to mention the Alabama Republican Party's phony stance on "family values." Rob Riley is right in the middle of it.

As for Bill Swatek, regular readers will recognize him as a lawyer and one of the prime villains in our Legal Schnauzer reporting. Swatek has a record of violating bar ethics rules for 30-plus years, but he has continued to practice and made enough money to send his kids to more-or-less elite universities. Given that he's had his law license suspended once for acts of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation," you might think Swatek would avoid any impropriety that could threaten his livelihood. But you would be wrong. And we have powerful evidence--in the form of e-mails--that Bill Swatek has engaged in serious hanky and panky. Not surprisingly, Swatek and his consultant son, Dax Swatek, are closely aligned with Rob Riley and the Alabama Republican Party.

If you enjoy stories about GOP hypocrisy, you will want to stay tuned for our reporting on Rob Riley and Bill Swatek.

Meanwhile, it's worth remembering that David Petraeus was appointed to head the U.S. surge in Iraq and to direct the U.S. Central Command, both under former Republican President George W. Bush. The image of rectitude that Petraeus has spent decades building now is collapsing right before our eyes.

He's not alone in falling victim to the arrogance of power.


Dvid in S. Alabama. said...

How common is it for someone to contact the FBI to complain about threatening emails? What law would the FBI be operating under to be lookong into personal email?

legalschnauzer said...


You raise a very interesting point. Most states, I believe, have a statute for harassing communications (or some similar term) which would involve your local law enforcement agency. Why was the FBI involved here? I'm not real sure. Do you think there is more to the story than meets the eye?

Sharon said...

Sounds like a love triangle to me. I'm betting word comes out that Petraeus also had a thing with Jill Kelley.

legalschnauzer said...

Certainly looks like Ms. Broadwell thought something was going on between Petraeus and Ms. Kelley.

Anonymous said...

Petraeus wanted "to give new meaning to the term embedded reporter."

I'm not one of your big fans, Schnauzer, but I had to chuckle at that one. You can be pretty funny when you aren't railing about judges and lawyers all the time.

Anonymous said...

Petraeus has excellent taste in mistresses. Props.

TLR said...

You've got dirt on Rob Riley? Can't wait for that. Count me "all in"!

Karen said...

Count me "all in," too. Would love to see that crime family go down.

Anonymous said...

There's a picture out there that includes Jill Kelley with her identical twin sister. She's smokin hot, too. I wonder if Petraeus had a threesome in mind.

legalschnauzer said...

In military terms, would a threesome count as a 'surge"?

Anonymous said...


Don't forget Broadwell. She would make a foursome.

Anonymous said...


"... In order to raise publicity for the cause, “Strike Debt” has a telethon and variety show planned for Thursday which will bring together a who’s who from the world of alternative music and comedy in New York.

"... Apart from the debt relief action, the group also is helping to raise public awareness about predatory lending practices, debt resistance and mutual aid.

A PEOPLE'S BAILOUT ... continue ..


"... There has been fulsome praise for General David Petraeus since he resigned yesterday as head of the CIA after the FBI discovered he was having an extramarital affair.

.. President Barack Obama lauded Petraeus’s decades of “extraordinary service,” which includes his time as general in charge of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as head of the CIA, where Petraeus would have been in charge of Obama’s “secret” drone program which kills children and other civilians in several countries with no oversight or control from anyone.

.. Some have lamented, via social media, that wars, occupations, assassinations are not reasons to lose one’s job in the United States government. Indeed, such service gets you praised and promoted, while an extramarital affair will kill your career.

.. But what also struck me was the total absence in the extensive media coverage of another way Petraeus made a little history: by publicly criticizing Israel and enraging the Israel lobby.

.. Israel, a liability to the US?

.. In March 2010, when Petraeus was still head of the US Central Command, he gave testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee which included this observation about one of the “challenges to security and stability” faced by the United States:



"... Forget the worldwide rampant Islamophobia and demonization of Arabs. Haaretz reports that the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, has “institutionalized the fight against global anti-Semitism”, even though the US military and their allies have been destroying countries mostly populated with Muslims for over a decade. Or maybe is it precisely to support the war on Islam and the Arab World – a.k.a. “war on terrorism” – that the “war on global anti-Semitism” is being launched? (Leaving post, U.S. official reflects on a new definition of anti-Semitism, Haaretz, October 17, 2012.)

con't ....

LS, what the US did not see, or know, was that the REAL MEDIA, IE the NEWS INFORMATION EDUCATION STREAM was no longer in the iron curtain scene, ACT Legal Schnauzer has been able to take the "Patriot Acts" and other such lying, cheating, stealing and murdering of AMERICANS ET AL, and reported the crimes attached to the genuine criminal 'elite' pond scum.

You are a great American hero and must be, as has been said to you again and again, VERY CAREFUL.

Syria just lost one of the great truth tellers, it is an occupational hazard in the aughts, as you know!

Spasmoda said...


Your point is well taken about the power of email. Imagine if the Obama DOJ really wanted to solve some Bushie crimes. Email alone probably could nail down the political prosecutions, U.S. attorney firings, wars on bogus grounds, maybe even the real story of 9/11.

What happened to Rove's emails? Did someone try to scrub them or ship them to a remote location?

jeffrey spruill said...

Mr. Schnauzer:

I would like to know what CIA guy provided David W. Bouchard the intelligence & timing of John Doe no2 sworn declaration:

so Bouchard could alert Erik Prince via the Va. Pilot:

One defendant in the Nicholas attack did not appear in court Wednesday because his attorney, David Bouchard, alerted the court that he is stuck at sea trying to cross the Atlantic in a sailboat.

that it's time to get out of dodge so as to avoid giving a deposition:


I've come to the conclusion that it's a necessary ingredient/job description to be a psychopath to enjoy full employment in US intelligence agencies.

Anonymous said...

Broadwell was behaving like a juvenile. I read somewhere, maybe on one of your links, that the content of her emails to Kelley were basically "stay away from my man." This woman graduated from West Point? She sounds like a fourth grader.

legalschnauzer said...

Those in Alabama might remember the ouster of Wimp Sanderson as basketball coach at U of A. The story was that Sanderson had a long-term affair with his mistress, but then cheated on her with a third woman--a member of the swimming team, or perhaps a coach on the women's swimming team.

Moral of the story: It's one thing to cheat on your spouse; it's a whole "nother thang" to cheat on your mistress. That will really get you in trouble.

Curious George said...

If Holly Petraeus decides to take the general to the cleaners, will he try to get the divorce case moved to Shelby County, Alabama? Worked for Ted Rollins.

legalschnauzer said...


It certainly did work for Ted Rollins on the front end. He and some others could wind up going to prison on the back end.

Anonymous said...

David in S. Alabama,

Anything involving computers or phones can be a federal matter. Also, the involvement of military personnel might have been a factor in getting the FBI involved.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is an interesting piece titled "Gmail Helped Bring Down CIA Director David Petraeus."

Anonymous said...

Not buying it. Jill Kelley and her husband are supposed to be good friends with Petraeus and his wife. Kelley would not go directly to the FBI. For this action to make sense Kelley would have to be in real fear and think Petraeus was unable or unwilling for whatever reason to control the situation. My guess is this is not the real story here or at least there is much more going on than what we now know.

legalschnauzer said...


That's a good question about Rove's e-mail. I believe lawyer/whistleblower Jill Simpson has reported that his e-mails likely are stored on servers at SmarTech in Chattanooga.

Anonymous said...

If you can sink your teeth into Rob Riley's fleshy butt, I would love it. Go, Schnauzer!

Molli said...

I think it is fair to assume that Ms. Broadwell welcomes publicity and has enjoyed being in the spotlight which was only made possible by Petraeus when he agreed to her interview requests. She has had numerous television appearances since the release of her book. Today CNN briefly showed a video of a party where she was hob nobbing with Jon Stewart and other celebs. Although I have no concrete knowledge, I assume she doesn't mind this spotlight either (much like the Reill Hunter with John Edward's love child). Heck maybe Broadwell will also get a Playboy spread!

David in S. Alabama said...

I am not the author of the following:
"Anonymous said...
David in S. Alabama,

Anything involving computers or phones can be a federal matter. Also, the involvement of military personnel might have been a factor in getting the FBI involved.

November 12, 2012 10:49 AM"

The really, real David in S. Alabama

jeffrey spruill said...

July 9, 2008
Ahead of a scheduled House vote Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto a bill aimed at forcing the president and federal agencies to improve preservation of e-mail records.


Swedes, so this campaign is
If imitation is the best kind of flattery, there is reason for President Bush's campaign team to feel flattered, now that Barack Obama's own campaign acknowledges that it wants to build his election campaign on the model of Bush / Cheney.

Published July 9, 2008 09:45 Uppdaterad 09 jul 2008 09:50 Updated July 9, 2008 09:50

Probably on servers in Sweden.

jeffrey spruill said...

Anonymous said...

When I saw Petraeus wife and then his mistress it reminded me of Prince Charles AND WHAT HE SHOULD HAVE REALIZED. If you were stuck with Camilla as a wife and you had a chance with Diana which would you choose?????'.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 3:22--

I'm not an expert on the Royals, but didn't Charles bail out on Diana to fool around with Camilla? Maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Charles actually cheated on his young/hot wife with an older/not so hot woman. He kind of went the "road less traveled."

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's not cool for the head of CIA to be a letch. Opens up a whole different subject though. I'm quite baffled at the stupidity of people in re to what this is really about. It goes far beyond a the cheating head of CIA. This is about Benghazi! He won't be testifying now and if by chance he does in the future, he's discredited.