Rene Boucher was directed Monday by a federal judge to serve eight months in prison and six months of home confinement, but he will remain free while federal prosecutors decide whether to file another appeal.
Boucher was sentenced for the second time in U.S. District Court in the case involving his tackle of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, his then-neighbor, on Nov. 3, 2017, as Paul was doing yard work at his home in Bowling Green’s Rivergreen subdivision.
A previous 30-day prison sentence was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in a ruling last year, even though Boucher had already served the sentence, paid a $10,000 fine and performed community service by the time the appeals court made its decision that the sentence was “substantively unreasonable.”
In a hearing held Monday over Zoom, Special Judge Matthew Leitman said the extent of Paul’s injuries from the assault – six broken ribs, multiple bouts of pneumonia and pain that continues to linger – made the incident a serious offense.
“There’s absolutely no downplaying the seriousness of the harm you visited on Sen. Paul and his family,” Leitman said.
The judge, however, imposed a lesser sentence than the 21 months in prison sought by Special Prosecutor Bradley Shepard, outlining several factors that weighed into his decision.
Leitman said Boucher’s work in the community through Holy Spirit Catholic Church, his eight years of active-duty Army service and a civil judgment against Boucher – a Warren Circuit Court jury last year directed Boucher to pay more than $580,000 in damages to Paul for his injuries – were points in Boucher’s favor when crafting this new sentence.
Near the end of the hearing, Shepard voiced an objection to the sentence, saying he believed the downward variance from the punishment he recommended was too great.
With the objection, the government can file a notice of appeal at a later date, and Leitman directed the attorneys to reconvene in a few weeks to discuss the status of the case.
As he did at prior court proceedings, Boucher expressed regret for his actions.
“What I did was egregiously wrong,” said Boucher, appearing with his attorney, Matt Baker. “I broke several ribs, I don’t feel good about that. ... I’m embarrassed. I’m sorry for what (the Pauls) have gone through, and I’m sorry to my family for what I’ve dragged them through. I brought on all this embarrassment.”
Pauls discuss impact of assault
Paul, who submitted a written statement and did not appear at Boucher’s first sentencing, gave a chronological account Monday detailing his injuries and the lingering physical effects from the assault.
The Republican senator described attempting to work in Washington the week after the assault despite experiencing what he said was “like the pain of a thousand knives.”
“Every hiccup, every jostle would bring me to my knees,” Paul said.
For several weeks, Paul required assistance to sit up in bed, finally tying a rope to the bed to help pull himself.
After twice dealing with pneumonia, Paul experienced breathing difficulties due to buildup of fluid around his lungs that necessitated draining in what Paul described as an “excruciating procedure.”
Last year, the senator had a portion of his lung removed after an evaluation showed scar tissue on the lung had doubled in size.
The damaged lung was the site of a chronic infection, though Paul said doctors were concerned at first that the senator had developed cancer in the affected area.
“I don’t know what a night without pain or a day without pain is like,” Paul said. “This was no altercation. ... This was someone sneaking up very fast on someone unaware of them. To my mind, this is a significant injury I’ll have lifetime symptoms for.”
Leitman asked the senator about a medical report that documented the presence of “vegetable matter” in his damaged lung and a diagnosis of acid reflux.
Baker included the report in a filing, arguing that it suggests that the surgery to remove the damaged portion of lung cannot be tied to Boucher’s assault.
Paul rebuffed that suggestion Monday, saying that the infection occurred in the same part of the lung where pneumonia had previously developed following the assault, and he did not know of an instance where acid reflux could cause such an adverse response.
“I think it shows a lack of contrition,” Paul said about the suggestion from Boucher’s attorney about the injury. “(Boucher) is still unwilling to accept the damage he did to my body.”
Paul’s wife, Kelley Paul, said the assault remains a shocking act.
Prior testimony indicated Boucher acted after seeing Rand Paul gather piles of yard debris outside his home near the property line the Pauls and Boucher shared.
The senator said he and Boucher didn’t have “cross words” with each other and didn’t interact often while they were neighbors, and the Pauls were not aware of Boucher’s motive for the assault at the time.
Boucher characterized it in a police interview as a “property dispute that boiled over.”
“I never had any idea that this person had any kind of hatred for us, let alone the kind of rage he exhibited by attacking Rand,” Kelley Paul said.
As her husband continued to experience pain last year leading up to the lung operation, Kelley Paul said she felt “despair and anger” about his suffering two years after the assault.
Attorneys make arguments
Shepard said Monday that the circumstances of the case justified a 21-month sentence for Boucher. A lesser sentence wouldn’t be adequate to deter future assaults, the prosecutor argued.
“The court needs to send a message,” Shepard said. “We can’t continue as a society to have violence be the go-to way to solve problems.”
Shepard said the assault was a “senseless act of violence” that has put Paul at risk for the rest of his life due to his lung damage.
Baker said Boucher is not at risk of committing new offenses and has already experienced some form of punishment through his prior imprisonment and the civil judgment against him, which led him to sell his home in the Rivergreen subdivision to raise the proceeds to pay the Pauls.
Baker also spoke of Boucher’s lack of a prior criminal record and his “exemplary” life as a doctor, military veteran and community leader.
“I know that (Boucher) is contrite,” Baker said. “If he could have 30 seconds of his life to do over again, I know for certain what 30 seconds he would choose.”
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.