Rene Boucher’s 30-day jail sentence for tackling U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, was vacated Monday in a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
The unanimous ruling by the three-judge federal appeals court panel remands the case back to U.S. District Court in Bowling Green for another sentencing hearing.
The appeals court found that Boucher’s sentence was substantively unreasonable and unjustified in light of the extent of Paul’s injuries and other factors.
Boucher had pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress following the Nov. 3, 2017, incident in Paul’s yard in the Rivergreen subdivision and was assessed the 30-day sentence, a $10,000 fine and 100 hours of community service last year.
Boucher served the jail term at a federal penitentiary in Illinois while federal prosecutors appealed the sentence, arguing that it was too lenient.
“He has done everything that the court has told him to do to the letter and now the government wants to do it all over again,” said Matt Baker, Boucher’s attorney. “In my mind, it’s just a travesty.”
Prosecutors had asked for a 21-month sentence for Boucher, and federal sentencing guidelines that take into account a defendant’s criminal history and circumstances surrounding the crime recommended 21-27 months behind bars.
In analyzing Boucher’s sentence, the appeals court considered whether there was sufficiently compelling reasons for Special Judge Marianne Battani to vary downward from the federal sentencing guidelines so drastically.
The appeals court found that Battani’s sentence did not take into account the extent of Paul’s injuries, which were characterized as “more than minor” in Monday’s ruling, written by U.S. Circuit Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch.
“The court did not address Paul’s six broken ribs, his damaged lung, his bouts of pneumonia or his chronic pain,” Stranch said in the ruling.
Paul underwent surgery last month to have a part of his lung removed, saying in a tweet that the operation focused on an area of his lung “damaged by the 2017 assault.”
Boucher maintained that the attack was not politically motivated, and that it resulted from “a property dispute that boiled over,” the dispute taking the form of the senator leaving piles of yard debris near Boucher’s property line and trimming trees on Paul’s property that had grown over the fence dividing the two former neighbors.
At the time of sentencing, Battani determined that the assault was an isolated event that Boucher was unlikely to repeat, but the appeals court found that the 30-day sentence would not deter others from committing similar assaults.
“Accepting that Boucher’s attack did not appear to be politically motivated, Paul’s status as a national political figure is still relevant to the broader goals of social deterrence served by Boucher’s sentence,” Stranch wrote.
Boucher’s background as a physician, Army veteran and churchgoer with two successful children and lack of any prior criminal history were given too much weight in fashioning his prison sentence, the appeals court found.
“These simple markers of privilege did not warrant an extreme variance in Boucher’s case,” Stranch wrote.
The appeals court reviewed the criminal case and compared it to other federal assault cases involving defendants with little or no criminal history, relying on national statistics showing defendants with the lowest criminal history category under federal sentencing guidelines received an average sentence of 26 months for an assault conviction.
No date has been set for Boucher to return to court, and Baker said they are contemplating their next step in the case.
“We’re taking a long look at whether or not to ask the Supreme Court to accept review,” Baker said. “We believe that Judge Battani got it right the first time and it’s disappointing that the 6th Circuit has essentially substituted its judgment with regard to the appropriateness of the sentence.”