Rand Paul's attacker pleads not guilty, his motive remains a mystery

Rene Albert Boucher pleaded not guilty today to charges of 4th-degree assault of his neighbor, Senator Rand Paul. Boucher allegedly ran across Sen. Paul’s lawn and tackled him without warning as Paul was cutting the law, resulting in six broken ribs. Boucher is a Democrat who has frequently posted his opposition to Republicans policies on social media, but his attorney, Matthew Baker, has emphasized that his client’s behavior was not motivated by politics. “This has absolutely nothing to do with any politics, any liberal vs. conservative or Republican versus Democrat,” Baker said. But today some of Sen. Paul’s neighbors questioned the story that this altercation was prompted by a dispute over lawn care. From USA Today:

Travis Creed, who said he is a neighbor and Paul family friend, said the true reason for the “bizarre” attack is known only to Boucher, but he added that reports of a dispute over landscaping or any other topic are incorrect.

“The Pauls are and always have been great neighbors and friends,” Creed wrote in an email. “They take pride in their property and maintain it accordingly. Rand has enjoyed working on and maintaining his lawn for as long as I have known him.”

Today a spokesman for Sen. Paul seemed to confirm that there was no ongoing dispute with Boucher. In fact, Sen. Paul and his neighbor hadn’t spoken in years. From CNN:

On Thursday, a senior adviser to the senator said, “The Pauls have had no conversations with (Boucher) in many years.”
“The first ‘conversation’ with the attacker came after Sen. Paul’s ribs were broken,” Doug Stafford said in a statement. “This was not a ‘fight,’ it was a blindside, violent attack by a disturbed person. Anyone claiming otherwise is simply uninformed or seeking media attention.”

It’s important to point out that Boucher and his attorney have a significant motive for denying a political angle to this attack. For one, the political angle makes this a national news story, one reminiscent of the attack on Rep. Steve Scalise. On the other hand, a dispute over leaf-litter is more easily dismissed as a local issue. But there’s a bigger issue.

When the tackle took place, Sen. Paul and the responding police initially thought that the extent of his injuries were some scratches. Police determined the crime was a misdemeanor assault, which meant they could not arrest Boucher. It wasn’t until 5 hours later that the extent of Paul’s injuries was known and police returned and made an arrest. At that point, they charged Boucher with the most serious charge the county attorney could bring. However, as the Washington Post explains, the seriousness of Sen. Paul’s injuries means that state or federal charges could still be brought against Boucher as well:

Fourth-degree assault is the most serious charge prosecuted by the Warren County attorney. More serious state charges would come from Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher T. Cohron. Federal charges, in turn, would fall to the U.S. attorney’s Office in Louisville. Stephanie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s Office in Louisville, offered no information on the likelihood of a federal prosecution…

A political motivation would drastically increase the likelihood of federal charges under a law that makes it a crime to assault a member of Congress “on account of the performance of official duties.” That charge comes with a possible sentence of eight years — 20 if a weapon is involved — as opposed to the 12-month sentence and $500 fine Boucher faces.

So there you have it. If this attack were to be deemed political, not only would that raise the profile of the story in the media, it would also significantly raise the potential for Boucher to face some serious jail time if he is convicted.

If it’s true that Boucher and Paul hadn’t spoken in years, including the day of the attack, then the lawn maintenance story just doesn’t add up. On the other hand, we know from his social media accounts that Boucher was politically active and very likely aware of his neighbor’s stance on certain issues, including Obamacare (Boucher and Paul are both doctors). Boucher may not have spoken with Paul in years, but he was potentially getting an earful about Paul via the media. In the absence of a compelling alternative explanation for Boucher’s behavior, something his attorney has so far failed to provide, a political motive is the only thing that makes sense.