Lawyers for David H. Petraeus have reached an agreement with federal prosecutors for the retired general and former CIA director to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge for mishandling classified materials, a deal that brings an end to a lengthy investigation that kept him largely out of public view for more than two years.
The deal, if approved by a judge, will spare Petraeus a prison sentence and allow him to avoid a trial that probably would have revealed details of his relationship with his former mistress and biographer, who had been provided the highly sensitive documents.
As part of the agreement, Petraeus admitted improperly retaining a number of bound notebooks that contained classified information and giving them to the biographer, Paula Broadwell, according to documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Charlotte, N.C.
The documents also indicate that Petraeus initially lied to FBI investigators during an interview at CIA headquarters, telling them that he had never provided Broadwell with classified information.
“The statements were false,” according to federal court documents. “Defendant David Howell Petraeus then and there knew that he previously shared the black books with his biographer.”
Federal prosecutors will not seek prison time for the retired four-star general but instead will ask a judge to impose a probationary period of two years and make him pay a $40,000 fine. It is unclear whether Broadwell will face charges.
Prosecutors had pushed for charges after FBI agents discovered that Broadwell was in possession of sensitive documents while writing her book about him. The affair forced Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November 2012.
Attorneys for Petraeus and Broadwell declined to comment. News of a possible plea deal was first reported by the New York Times.
According to prosecutors, the black books in Petraeus’s possession dated to his time as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. They contained information such as code words, war strategy, the identities of covert officers and outlined deliberative discussions with the National Security Council and President Obama.
Court documents indicate that Petraeus gave the books to Broadwell in late August 2011 while she was staying at a private residence in Washington. Several days later, Petraeus retrieved the books.
Although Broadwell used the notebooks to help her write the general’s memoir, prosecutors said her book, “All In,” did not contain classified information.
Two weeks after his resignation from the CIA, Petraeus signed documents assuring the agency he no longer had classified documents in his “possession, custody, or control.”
When FBI agents, however, raided Petraeus’s house in Arlington, Va., in April 2013, they seized the black books, which they found in an unlocked drawer in his study.
He had previously turned over classified documents collected during his tenure as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to a Pentagon historian but did not hand over the black books.
The FBI investigation into Petraeus began in 2012 after Broadwell sent threatening e-mails to Jill Kelley, a Florida woman who was an associate of Petraeus’s. Kelley, who did not know the identity of the sender, contacted the FBI, which later traced the messages to Broadwell.
In the course of their investigation into Broadwell, the FBI uncovered not only explicit e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus but classified documents, prompting a probe into how she obtained them.
The handling of the Petraeus investigation has become a subject of intrigue in Washington, more than two years after he resigned from the CIA. In January, media reports that federal prosecutors had recommended that he face charges in the case prompted growing calls on Capitol Hill for a resolution to the case.
Petraeus now serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, a part of the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and also spends his time teaching and giving speeches.
Petraeus is not the first former CIA director to face charges for mishandling classified information. In December 1996, then-Director John Deutch resigned after agency security officers discovered he had stored highly classified documents on his home computer that was connected to the Internet.
After a criminal investigation, Deutch agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $5,000 fine. But before the prosecutors could file the papers in federal court, President Bill Clinton pardoned him on his last day in office.
Julie Tate and Carol Leonnig contributed to this report.