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KY man who tackled US Sen. Rand Paul sentenced to another 13 months confinement

Gavel (Observer-Dispatch/TNS)

The neighbor who lost his temper and attacked Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2017, breaking six of his ribs, has been sentenced to an additional 13 months confinement.

A federal judge initially sentenced Rene Boucher to 30 days in jail for the November 2017 attack, along with 100 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

During a video hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Leitman handed down the new sentence against Boucher – eight months in prison and six months on home confinement.

However, Leitman gave Boucher credit for the 30 days he already served, so he will have seven more months behind bars.

Prosecutors had appealed the initial sentence for Boucher, arguing it was unreasonably light, and won the right to try to get a longer sentence.

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That led to Monday’s hearing.

The new sentence for Boucher still wasn’t as long as the government wanted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Shepard objected to the sentence, which could lead to yet another appeal by the government for stiffer sentence for Boucher.

The attack made national news because of Paul’s position, but prosecutors have acknowledged it had nothing to do with politics.

Rather, Boucher, who lived next door to Paul in a gated community in Bowling Green, attacked Paul because he got angry over Paul stacking limbs and other yard waste near their shared property line, according to the court record.

Boucher ran down a hill and tackled Paul from behind when Paul got off his lawn mower on Nov. 3, 2017. Paul was wearing noise-canceling headphones and didn’t hear Boucher coming.

Three of Paul’s ribs were snapped in two, allowing the ends to grind together painfully.

Police first charged Boucher with misdemeanor assault in state court, but the federal government stepped in and prosecuted him under a law barring assaults on members of Congress.

Under advisory guidelines, Boucher faced a potential sentence of 21 to 27 months.

Federal judges can impost sentences below those guidelines.

In handing down a lower sentence, U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani cited Boucher’s military service, his involvement in his church and her belief that the attack was out of character for Boucher.

However, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Battani didn’t give sufficient weight to the seriousness of Paul’s injuries or the need for deterrence, and didn’t sufficiently address the issue of the big difference in Boucher’s sentence and others involving federal assault cases.

Shepard renewed a call for a 21-month sentence for Boucher because of the severity of Paul’s injuries.

The punishment also should to be tough enough deter similar attacks, Shepard said.

“The court I think needs to send the message . . . that we cannot continue as a society to resort to violence,” Shepard said.

Paul and his wife, Kelly, submitted written statements about the attack the first time Boucher was sentenced, but spoke in person during the video hearing Monday.

Paul said he’d never had cross words with Boucher and so had no idea he was unhappy before Boucher blindsided him.

Paul described the intense pain and his struggles to breathe after the attack, as well as the history of physical problems since, including bouts with pneumonia, night sweats and fever; coughing up blood; surgery to remove part of his scarred lung; and still more surgery to drain infected fluid.

Paul said his lung capacity will likely be reduced the rest of his life, and he has chronic pain.

“I don’t know what a night without pain is like, or a day without pain,” Paul said.

Kelly Paul told the judge of the strain and fear his injuries and suffering caused for her and other family members.

In one visit to the emergency room, doctors inserted a huge needle into Paul’s chest to draw out fluid, not using anesthesia because of the need to move quickly, she said.

Another time, a doctor told them there was an 80 percent chance that cancer had developed in the scarred area of Paul’s lung, his wife said.

“Now in constantly worry,” Kelly Paul said.

Boucher’s attorney, Matthew J. Baker, said Boucher is “profoundly sorry” for the attack, but argued against any additional time for Boucher, a physician.

Baker said Boucher’s initial sentence was appropriate, and that he had faced additional punishment by way of a judgment of more than $600,000 in a state civil lawsuit Paul filed against him over the attack.

That judgment included $375,000 in punitive damages, which by definition are to punish a defendant.

Boucher sold his house to satisfy the judgment, but has appealed it as well. The case is pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Baker argued that putting Boucher back in jail would improperly punish him a third time for the same crime.

Lietman said it was heartbreaking to hear Paul and his wife describe the fallout from the attack.

But the judge said he was choosing a sentence below the guideline range for several reasons, including Boucher’s long record of work with his church, his eight years as a U.S. Army doctor, the fact that the attack was out of character, and the damage to his reputation from the crime.

Leitman said $375,000 punitive damage award in state court also figured into his decision.

“That’s a lot of punishment,” he said.

Leitman did not set a date for Boucher to begin the sentence.

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© 2020 the Lexington Herald-Leader