By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The former girlfriend of Kurt Busch said on Monday she was "stunned" that prosecutors declined to file criminal domestic abuse charges against the NASCAR driver after a commissioner ruled earlier she had likely been choked and had her head slammed against a wall.
Prosecutors in Delaware said on March 5 that they were unlikely to get a conviction against Busch and would not file criminal charges against the 2004 NASCAR champion.
"I was stunned," Patricia Driscoll, Busch's girlfriend of four years, told Reuters, her palms-up hands outstretched. "A judge found Kurt to have committed an act of abuse.
"What I find disappointing and upsetting is that Kurt is now trying to play the victim in saying he has been falsely accused."
Driscoll, 37, said Busch grabbed her by the neck inside his motor home at Dover International Speedway in Delaware on Sept. 26 and repeatedly smashed her head against a wall. Busch, 36, admitted to cupping Driscoll's cheeks and tapping her head against a wall in the motor home but denies it was violent.
After four days of testimony, a county commissioner ruled last month in favor of Driscoll's request for a no-contact order, saying he believed Busch had physically abused Driscoll and would likely do it again.
NASCAR suspended Busch, known by the moniker "The Outlaw," but reinstated him three weeks later after learning criminal charges would not be filed.
"It was very clear in his decision it wasn't a 'maybe' that Kurt committed abuse," Driscoll said of the 26-page decision granting the no-contact order. "It was most definitely he did.
"He felt that Kurt's testimony was not truthful."
Busch declined to comment for this story. He said last week Driscoll's version of events was a "fabrication."
The accusations against the mercurial Busch came at a time when several American sports, most notably the National Football League, are struggling with domestic abuse cases against athletes and how to discipline them.
Although Busch has not won the title in a decade, he remains a top contender and his suspension by NASCAR sent a message that it was taking domestic abuse seriously at a time it is trying to attract more women fans.
"NASCAR took a strong stand against domestic violence, suspending Kurt, which I thought was fantastic," Driscoll said. "Then they announce he's reinstated.
"He's cured in three weeks. It sends a bad message. He got a three-week vacation."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)