Former military commander and CIA Director David Petraeus will be in Charlotte on March 19 to admit sharing classified information with his former mistress, a source familiar with the investigation told the Observer.
At 2 p.m. that day, Petraeus will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge that he turned over highly secret information in 2011 to Paula Broadwell of Charlotte, who was writing the four-star general’s biography at the time.
A year later, their affair became public – leading Petraeus to resign from the CIA. Court documents say the former wartime leader in Iraq and Afghanistan later lied to investigators about sharing government secrets with Broadwell, which legal experts say could have led to a false statement/obstruction charge that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
First, the general must publicly admit his guilt. His crime: one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. It carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
A federal judge – either U.S. Magistrate David Keesler or District Judge Robert Conrad – will decide the general’s punishment, though the prosecutor’s recommendation normally carries great weight. Petraeus’ sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
By accepting the plea agreement, Petraeus avoids the embarrassment of a trial, which almost certainly would have delved into his affair with Broadwell. Yet the hearing is expected to draw media from across the country.
Meanwhile, many legal experts continue to say the government could have dealt with Petraeus far more harshly.
“It is clear from the plea agreement’s factual statement that Petraeus might have been indicted for an array of felonies,” John Dean, former White House counsel during the Watergate years, wrote for “Justia,” an online legal publication.
“In short, Petraeus got a very good deal.”
New documents filed this week at the federal courthouse in Charlotte do not address whether Broadwell will face charges in the case.
According to the filings, Broadwell had access to eight “black books” Petraeus had compiled while military commander in Afghanistan.
The notebooks included “national defense information,” codes and other data, including, “the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities … diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings,” even some notes from Petraeus’ wartime discussions with President Barack Obama.
Broadwell, a West Point graduate and a major in the Army Reserve at the time, had security clearance – but not high enough to view the general’s top-secret documents.
Prosecutors say Broadwell had the black books for three or four days during a visit to Washington, D.C., in late August 2011. She then returned them to Petraeus. No classified information appeared in Broadwell’s 2012 biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” documents say.
However, U.S. News and World Report has raised the possibility that Broadwell used the information to write in the biography about Petraeus’ disagreement with the White House over the speed in which troops were removed from Afghanistan in 2011, a disagreement that almost led Petraeus to resign as war commander, Broadwell wrote.
The affair between the two became public in 2012. Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA on Nov. 9, 2012 – Broadwell’s birthday. On April 5, 2013, FBI agents discovered and seized the black books in a raid on Petraeus’ home.
The investigation of Petraeus’ use of classified material began in Charlotte. But it was triggered when a Florida socialite complained to the FBI in 2012 that she had received anonymous emailed threats about her friendship with Petraeus.
The FBI traced the threats back to Broadwell in Charlotte. Further searches of her email revealed her relationship with Petraeus.
The FBI later discovered classified documents on her computer, which was seized with other material during a search of the Dilworth home Broadwell still shares with her husband and two sons.