He said, she said – NASCAR driver’s attorney proclaims client’s innocence

By Jerry Jordan — HOUSTON, Tx – It’s no secret to anyone in the racing world that Kurt Busch has a temper but one of Houston’s highest profile defense lawyers, Rusty Hardin, is defending the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, saying abuse allegations by Patricia Pauline Driscoll, a Washington D.C. defense contractor and Busch’s former girlfriend, “are a complete fabrication.” He was also quick to point out Busch’s past flashes of anger – many of which have been caught on camera – are related to his client’s life on the track and not his private affairs when he’s just trying to be a regular guy.

As for his thoughts on Driscoll, Hardin’s words painted a picture that showed her to be a liar and someone out to ruin Busch’s life. In taking the defense of his client a step further, Hardin essentially accused Driscoll of attempting to extort money from Busch in the six weeks prior to her claim that the racecar driver smashed her head against the wall inside his motor coach, during the fall race at Dover International Speedway on September 26. He added, that it wasn’t until Busch sought legal counsel and began fighting back against Driscoll’s demands for money and other property that she drove to Delaware on November 5, with just over a week left in the NASCAR season, to file her claim of abuse.

On Monday, Busch and Driscoll will face each other again as the Kent County (Del.) Family Court continues a hearing to determine whether an order of protection should be granted in Driscoll’s demand that Busch have no further contact with her. The case was put on hold for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in December but Hardin said the entire process is unnecessary and the last thing Busch wants is to have anything to do with Driscoll.

When contacted by phone, Driscoll recalled the past few months very differently, but had been instructed by her legal team not to make any public statements to the media while the case was pending. When the hearing took a break in December, Driscoll was on the stand and she is expected to be first up, Monday.

“My attorneys have asked me not to talk on the record to anybody and you can take my testimony from the stand,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll, who is represented by Mark Dycio, a Virginia-based attorney specializing in various legal arenas, forwarded him questions about the ongoing legal battle. He and fired back at Hardin’s interpretation of the alleged events.

“Rusty Hardin would like to paint my client as the jilted lover and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Dycio said. “After the assault my client refused to speak with Mr. Busch by phone or in person, and hasn’t. In fact, Mr. Busch admitted on the stand to being the one initiating conversations with my client, as the record will reflect. He asked to speak with her by phone and he sent her many text messages over the following five weeks, most of which she didn’t respond to.”

With photos of his past successes on display over his shoulder, Hardin sat down Thursday for a 30-minute interview with Kickin’ the Tires at his office on the 22nd floor of 5 Houston Center, overlooking the Toyota Center – home of the Houston Rockets. As has always been the case when talking about his previous high-profile clients, Hardin didn’t shy away from sharing his thoughts on one of his newest defense endeavors – the Driscoll versus Busch imbroglio.

“It is not only not needed, it wouldn’t even be appropriate,” Hardin said, of granting the protective order against Busch. “If you stop and think about it, this is supposed to have happened – the encounter was September 26 and she doesn’t even go to the police until November. The evidence was real clear at the hearing that they had no physical contact (during that time). They have had none. Indeed, she even testified that she was out in Las Vegas for something and found out that he was at a dinner on the floor below and he never tried to contact her. They have had no physical contact since this is supposed to have happened, so obviously there is no need for a protective order.”

Based on a review of Driscoll’s Twitter account, she and Busch have actually been in very close proximity to one another on several occasions since the alleged September 26 incident, when she let herself into his motor coach without permission and using a code she learned during their relationship. On Nov. 2, just three days before making her allegations against Busch, Driscoll posted on Twitter, “I will be at PHX & Miami.” In Phoenix (PHX), she attended the Barrett-Jackson auction. Her account doesn’t show any Tweets from the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway but two weeks later, in Las Vegas, she had dozens of Tweets – all during NASCAR’s Champion’s Week. In fact, Driscoll stayed at the Venetian Resort for several days and none of her Tweets mentioned any encounters with Busch, a Las Vegas native, who was observed multiple times coming and going from the adjacent Wynn Resort and Casino in a matte black SUV with dark tinted windows.

“He would love to stay as far away from her as he possibly could,” Hardin said. “When he decided the relationship was over, then she decided she would ruin him and do whatever she could to hurt his career. That is what she is doing now.”

With the protective order hearing resuming, Dycio pointed to previous testimony about how his client claimed Busch acted away from the track. He said the reason she was in Dover was because she cared about Busch’s well-being and only wanted to help.

“Ms Driscoll is truly a caring and compassionate person. She runs an organization that helps service members deal with their PTSD and addiction issues, just as she’s tried to helped Kurt with his,” Dycio said. “I have been advised that the couple has had fights in the past where Mr. Busch would be upset after a bad race and would disappear for a few days to collect himself and then the couple would make up. Mr. Busch had a meltdown after a bad race and admitted to ripping the rear view mirror out of the car breaking the windshield while driving to their romantic getaway, as the record would reflect. Ms. Driscoll was fed up with the screaming and crazy behavior, so she left him at the Boston airport and didn’t contact him until a few days later.

“I was advised that Ms Driscoll was informed by people around Mr. Busch that he was very sad and depressed after their fight, and had even mentioned to her employee and his consultant that ‘they had a big fight but nothing was over’ about 24 hours before the assault. After receiving text messages from Mr. Busch that he was ‘laying on the floor crying’ and ‘the world was crashing down on him.’ Ms. Driscoll consulted with a few friends and the motor home driver that she should come to Dover to check on him. Being the compassionate person she is, she drove out to Dover to check on Kurt and was subsequently attacked shortly after arriving as she testified on the stand and the record will reflect.”

Hardin said, Driscoll has denied she is trying to bushwhack the NASCAR star over their break-up but he doesn’t believe her. He indicated testimony in the hearing Monday, which may also go into Tuesday, could show that Driscoll has a history of making up false allegations.

“As you know, all of the media publications about this have been very harmful to him. NASCAR, and his own racing team, are obviously sensitive to the public’s reaction about domestic violence and every respectable person in the world is against it and concerned about it, so when those allegations hit the person that those allegations are made against, they are already behind the 8-ball,” Hardin said. “One of the saddest things is that when it is all over, everyone will find out that she has fabricated all of this. At what stage people will ultimately reach that conclusion, I have no idea. But as more and more evidence comes forward that is what people are going to conclude. And when it is over and done with, those kinds of incidents harm the very large number of legitimate domestic violence cases. It is a sad thing to see. But we are in a time now, that if you are a public person, with any type of public reputation, when the allegation is made, you spend all your time trying to get out from behind the allegation. Nobody really wants to wait until they hear the evidence. Nobody wants to wait to hear both sides of it. They just jump the gun. That is what they have done with Kurt and it’s unfortunate.”

Hardin added that many people will likely still think Busch did what he is being accused of even after he is exonerated. He said people tend to believe that someone “got off” or somehow beat the system.

“The majority of people still think they did it. They just describe their getting off to their lawyer or the system or whatever,” Hardin said. “The reality is that, for people with a public reputation, we seem unwilling to leave open the possibility that not everyone is guilty of what they are accused of. We seemed to have moved over for public people to where they have to prove they are not guilty as opposed to historically, what it is supposed to be, others having to prove they are guilty. We seem to have done away with the presumption of innocence.

“In Kurt’s case it is even more difficult because you have an incident – an encounter – where there are three people present. One is a 9-year-old child that no one wants to bring into it one way or the other. And the other is the two people – she said it happened and he said it didn’t. Now, how does he ever prove that is the case? How does he prove it did not happen?”

Dycio dismissed Hardin’s remarks because he said there are witnesses to the injuries Driscoll claims she received the night of the alleged incident. He said this isn’t about finger pointing or trying to determine who did what. He believes the evidence is clear. He said Driscoll left Dover and for over an hour to her Ellicott City, Md. home.

“This isn’t even a case of he said/she said. In this case there were witnesses to the harm caused to my client by Mr. Busch.,” Dycio said. “There were multiple people who saw her immediately following the attack, who administered first aid and helped her change her locks and alarm system at home. Pictures were taken shortly after the assault, that were submitted into evidence, that clearly show the bruises, red marks, and petechiae from the strangulation and slamming her head into the wall. Her neighbor testified at the hearing to seeing those marks and bruises within hours of the attack and how they worsened the following days. Mr. Busch admitted on the stand to putting his hands on my client, as the record will reflect.

“My client told the police that she would agree to a polygraph and they told her it wasn’t necessary.”

Busch testified that he “cupped” Dricoll’s face, looked directly at her and told her that she needed to get out of his motor coach.

Hardin stopped short of giving up his legal strategy for Monday’s hearing and any potential criminal defense he may provide Busch should Dover prosecutors move forward with formal criminal charges but he did pose questions about Driscoll’s history and character, as well as, providing a possible glimpse of where things may go in the courtroom next week.

“You have to look to see, when you have two people and they have an encounter and they have two very, very different views of what happened, then you have to look to the reputation and history for credibility of both of them,” Hardin said.

A Facebook profile for Driscoll claims her ancestry links to Benjamin Franklin and Edwin Goodman of the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store in Manhattan, N.Y. but the lineage of the Driscoll name is also synonymous with Texas history. It was Clara Driscoll, a huge supporter of the democratic party in the 1920’s and 30’s, who used her family’s fortune to restore the Alamo in San Antonio, construct the Hotel Robert Driscoll and establish the Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. When asked about her link to the Driscoll fortune following a press conference announcing Busch’s move to Stewart-Haas Racing, Driscoll was non-committal and brushed off the connection.

It is impossible to disregard how far Driscoll has come in her adult life. She’s been through two marriages and gone from being 17-years-old and living in apartment #533 at the Driftwood Apartments in Galveston to now, hobnobbing with powerful elected officials in Washington D.C. and rubbing shoulders with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas. As she has well-documented with her updates on Twitter, Driscoll has made a name for herself in some very elite circles.

She now runs the Armed Forces Foundation, which received $33.1 million in donations and grants between 2008 and 2012, according to IRS records. The most recent records are not yet available. It’s a charity that pays her a salary of more than $190,000 annually, plus expenses and travel among other perks. Its goal, according to federal non-profit documentation, “is to promote the morale, welfare and quality of life the U.S. Armed Forces community.”

In addition, she is CEO of Frontline Defense Systems, LLC, a defense contractor that has received more than $5.8 million from public contracts and an unknown amount of funding from government shadow contracts since 2007, according records from the Federal Procurement Data System and obtained by Kickin’ the Tires, during a three-month investigation of Driscoll’s past. Frontline Defense Systems, which specializes in ground-motion sensor technology, has also received several hundred thousand dollars in rental payments from the charity Driscoll oversees, according to the IRS.

While Driscoll is relatively new to the NASCAR scene, she has been running in high-profile political circles for much of her life. Growing up, she lived in El Paso, Texas with her parents and other family members. She attended Irvin High School into her junior year in the district where her grandmother was a beloved teacher. She played volleyball, was on the swimming team, ran track, was an officer in Orchestra Club and played the cello. She was even a kicker on the junior varsity football team but then, something changed.

Driscoll became estranged from her family, relocated to Galveston and graduated from Galveston Ball High School, according to public records. At some point, she met an individual named Gilberto Chiquito III. The two applied for a marriage license on Nov. 15, 1995, according to documents on file in the county clerk’s office in Galveston County. However, the license application was never completed to indicate she and Chiquito actually married but records in Howard County, Md. showed Patricia filing for divorce in April 1999. She and Gilberto lived in a $141,000 home in Columbia, Md. that she received in their divorce.

A search of criminal records in Howard County, Md. revealed that Chiquito was arrested for allegedly assaulting Driscoll but there is no punishment indicated.

Her second marriage, in which she is now embroiled in a bitter and lengthy custody dispute, was to Geoffrey Hermanstorfer. He is also a defense contractor working for CACI International Inc. and is expected to take the witness stand Monday. The couple purchased the historic Lilburn Mansion at 3899 College Ave. in Ellicott, Md. for $1.3 million in 2007. It is now listed on the Howard County tax rolls with value of $1.58 million. Driscoll lives in the residence with the son she had with Hermanstorfer.

When asked about Driscoll’s previous relationships and any testimony they might provide, Hardin’s answer indicated Busch might not be the first person that Driscoll has, in his words, “falsely accused” of domestic abuse.

“If someone has a history of making up things or if someone has a history of falsely making up the same allegation against others to benefit; if the person has told different stories to others about it; if the person has told others that she is going to ruin him for this; those are the kind of things that are relevant in finding out what happened,” Hardin said. “Those are all circumstances that will have to be judged on their own merit. I think, in this case, the fact that someone waits six weeks; you’ve got to question it. What made them come forward in six weeks? I think the evidence has shown, so far, in correspondence she had lawyers making demands on him in which she wanted property settlements and all kinds of things like that. And the evidence has been that once he hired his own attorney, she was very upset about it and ultimately, after six or seven weeks, she did it.

“The evidence is also clear that when she filed the original charges, the media at large were never made aware because it is a public document. She didn’t put in that document that it happened at his trailer. She didn’t put in that document that she came in without his permission. She didn’t put in that document that she came at 10 o’clock at night with her 9-year-old son. And she didn’t put in that document that, according to her own testimony, that he twice asked her to leave and she wouldn’t leave. And then, when she does leave, she starts to prepare her story and we just have to hope the commissioner sees through it. I don’t know much about the specific stuff, certainly not what’s to come. I don’t want to talk about anything that is not in the public domain, yet. But it is important to remember that all this hearing is about is whether there should be a family protective order to keep him away from her and he has absolutely no intentions of having any contact with her. And even when the hearing was continued, the status quo was left in place because the evidence was clear that he hadn’t made any attempt to contact her and he is not going to.”

Dycio defended Driscoll’s decision not to immediately go to police, referring to the custody battle she is fighting with her ex-husband. He described that relationship as “a nightmare” and claimed Hardin’s hard-nosed tactics in questioning his client were an example of why more women don’t come forward to report domestic abuse.

“My client has been involved in a very nasty custody battle with her ex-husband that has spanned over 5 years,” Dycio said. “Mr, Hermanstorfer continuously files actions. This latest round of filings by Mr. Hermanstorfer made Mr. Busch so angry that Mr. Busch had agreed to sponsor Ms. Driscoll’s battle to hopefully put an end to the nightmare Mr. Hermanstorfer was causing for everyone, especially their young son, Houston. I find it curious now that Mr. Busch would have Mr. Hermanstorfer testifying for him. I think this goes to show that my client had every reason to be concerned about filing charges with the police until all of her attorneys had a chance to figure out how this assault would affect her ongoing custody battle. I am advised Mr. Hermanstorfer even threatened to call the police after a verbal altercation between his wife and Mr. Busch. Mr. Hermanstorfer and Mr. Busch have had many verbal altercations, as well, and Mr. Hermanstorfer even tried to have Mr. Busch banned from picking up their son during custody transitions.

“I think it’s terrible what my client has had to endure for a protective order. Mr. Hardin has thrown everything at this poor lady, most of which was inflammatory and had no basis. With treatment like this, it’s no wonder more women won’t come forward when they’ve been abused, especially by a rich celebrity athlete.”

Hardin said there is an aspect to this entire case that no one has addressed and it doesn’t appear that anyone wants to consider. Driscoll entered Busch’s motor coach without permission – a potential criminal act.

“Nobody wants to talk about the fact that if a person comes into your home when you are asleep and you ask them to leave and they will not, what are you allowed to do to get them to go,” Hardin said. “Now, the truth is that he didn’t do what she said he did. One has to ask, if he would have been entitled to do that when he is in his own home and the person wouldn’t leave. But he didn’t do it, so that is not really the issue.

“It has been totally ignored, the fact, that at 10 o’clock at night, when she came in, she admits that he was in bed. She admits that she used the combination that she knew from when they were together. She admits that he asked her to leave – he says four or five times in testimony, she says, at least, twice. She admits that she brought her 9-year-old son into that atmosphere. I think one of the most striking things about the testimony is, she said that after what she claimed happened, that he pushed her against the wall and hit her head against the wall. He said that simply did not happen but she agrees that, after whatever did, or didn’t, happen physically, he turned around and got back into bed, in his own trailer, in his own bedroom and she left. So, what is the system, the judicial system, supposed to do about that set of facts?”

Regardless of his belief that Busch is innocent of the charges against him, Hardin admits he is worried about what moves prosecutors might take in the case because of the stigma associated with claims of domestic violence and the lengths that Driscoll has taken to denigrate his client. That would include her political allies in Congress sending a demand to NASCAR and StewartHaas Racing to remove Busch from the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet. Shortly after the alleged incident was reported, Congresswoman Jackie Speier drafted a letter comparing Driscoll’s allegations to when Busch was caught on cell phone video cursing at ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch following the 2011 season finale at Homestead.

“NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing should not wait until the investigation is complete to act,” Speier wrote. “I urge you to suspend Mr. Busch from this weekend’s Championship and adopt a policy going forward in all domestic violence cases to suspend drivers until criminal proceedings end or there is a clear lack of evidence.”

Speier, who is a friend of Driscoll’s and has been seen with Driscoll at some of the same political and military galas, also instructed NASCAR officials to, “provide my office with an update on your investigation.” She used the word “please” but also wanted NASCAR’s to turn over its history from the past five years demonstrating any sanctioning of “race teams for domestic violence.”

“Look what got orchestrated here. When this allegation was made six weeks after the supposed event, several congresswomen signed a letter to NASCAR criticizing NASCAR and putting pressure on NASCAR to suspend him while this was going on,” Hardin said. “I don’t understand this phenomena we seem to be in now where somebody makes an allegation about private conduct and his employer is supposed to suspend him and keep him from making a living while the system takes however long to investigate it. That type of conduct is rife with temptation to make false allegations.”

Hardin said he is hopeful that NASCAR will continue to take a wait-and-see attitude to determine what the evidence will show before, or if, it takes any moves to remove Busch from the racecar. He said this allegation has an incredible impact on Busch being able to make a living and follow his profession – that he shouldn’t be given special treatment but he also should be treated differently because his is a racecar driver.

“If they file charges, I know there is absolutely no way in the world that once a jury hears all of these charges that they are going to convict him but I am just praying that we don’t have to go that far because the mere allegation does damage to his reputation and profession,” Hardin said. “When he is found not guilty six or nine months from now, he’s missed a whole year of racing at the age of 37.

“I think you will find that Kurt’s issues of temper have almost always had something to do with racing. There is no indication that he is a violent person privately. He is actually, kind of, an enjoyable even-keeled guy. I would suggest he is much more laid back than she is.”

Dycio said he doesn’t believe there is a difference between Busch being on, or off, camera and that his public behavior is available for anyone to see online.

“Kurt Busch has proven in front of the camera his entire career that he is unable to control his emotions, and he is not the kind of person who would diffuse a situation like he suggests,” Dycio said. “All you have to do is look up the endless videos on You tube and watch his meltdowns, violent behavior, and threats he has made to others and realize that what he’s saying is false. If he will behave like that in front of the camera and witnesses imagine what he will do behind closed doors.

As for what he expects Monday, Hardin said he has no indication that Busch will be taken into custody, now that the police have concluded their investigation and forwarded the case to prosecutors. It is common practice in criminal cases, when an out-of-town defendant is represented by an attorney, the attorney is given a heads-up if an arrest is imminent. That allows the accused to make arrangements for posting bail and moving the case forward.

“No, no, they are not going to arrest him when he gets there,” Hardin said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kickin’ the Tires will be in Dover to report on the family court hearing Monday and Tuesday and will provide periodic updates on Twitter at @kicknthetires

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