How much should it cost to tackle a U.S. senator and break half a dozen of his ribs?
That’s the question at issue in a trial that got underway Monday in Bowling Green, Ky. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was in the courtroom, sitting at a table with his lawyers, as the roll of prospective jurors was called.
The civil complaint pits Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, against his neighbor, retired anesthesiologist Rene Boucher, who admitted assaulting Paul in November 2017.
Boucher said he attacked Paul out of anger over Paul repeatedly stacking yard waste near their property line.
Boucher said in testimony and court records that he had cleaned up yard waste several times, and that on the day before the attack, he tried to burn a pile of waste and injured himself, the Bowling Green Daily News reported.
The next day, Paul was mowing his yard when he came across a limb in his path and got off the mower to move it, according to a court document.
Boucher, who said he lost his temper, ran 60 yards and tackled Paul from behind. Paul didn’t hear him coming because he’d been wearing hearing protection while mowing.
Paul suffered several broken ribs, including some that were broken in half, allowing the ends to grind together.
Paul has said the pain was like being stabbed by a thousand knives. He contracted pneumonia and has had trouble breathing and chronic pain since, he has said in interviews.
Boucher pleaded guilty in federal court and was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors wanted a 21-month sentence, however, and are asking an appeals court to order a new hearing where they could argue for additional time behind bars for Boucher.
Paul thinks Boucher should pay a higher price as well. He is seeking up to $500,000 in damages to compensate him and up to $1 million more to punish Boucher.
The attack on a Kentucky senator who ran for president in 2016 against Donald Trump was nationwide news and caused a great deal of speculation about whether the attack was politically motivated.
Paul suggested it was, saying in a letter to the court that he didn’t accept Boucher’s claim that the attack was motivated by a property-line dispute. Paul said he assumed Boucher’s “deep-seated anger towards me commingles with his hatred of my political policies.”
The fact that the assault was “utterly disproportionate to the triviality of a ‘lawn offense’ strongly suggests that something more exists here,” Paul wrote.
However, Boucher reportedly said he had tried to talk to Paul about the issue two or three times but Paul walked away from him.
The federal judge who sentenced Boucher said she saw no politically motive in the attack, describing it as “strictly a dispute between neighbors.”