rand paul
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

As I discussed on Monday, it’s curious that Rand Paul’s neighbor is only being charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor. Keep in mind that according to reports, this man charged across Rand Paul’s lawn and attacked him from behind. Sen. Paul, who allegedly had just disembarked from his riding mower, suffered six broken ribs, three of them displaced, and a pleural effusion resulting from a lacerated lung.

His assailant has offered no explanation for his behavior, although his lawyer has stated that most of us would consider the altercation to have arisen from a trivial matter unrelated to politics. Appearing in court today, Rene Boucher, a retired anesthesiologist, pleaded not guilty. And that’s a bit curious, too, because assaulting a member of Congress is a federal crime on a good day, and caving in one side of a senator’s chest is hardly a trivial matter. The Warren County Attorney, Amy Milliken, was questioned about the light charges on the courthouse steps, and she said “both the FBI and the Kentucky state police are continuing their investigation,” and that given the severity of Sen. Paul’s injuries, additional charges could be added. Why not plead guilty while the charges are still a slap on the wrist?

Now, initially Rand Paul minimized the extent of both what happened (an “unfortunate incident”) and the extent of his injuries. The police report says Paul explained that he was merely “tackled him from behind, forcing him to the ground and causing pain.” Then the New York Times reported that it arose out of a landscaping dispute.

I had my doubts.

Today, Breitbart is pushing an angle to the story in which they’re at great pains to talk about what an amazing neighbor and citizen Rand Paul is but in which they’re also quoting neighbors to debunk the idea that “some sort of plant or flora issue” was the cause of the attack. Rand Paul has endorsed the Breitbart angle by retweeting links to it, but he hasn’t otherwise made any comment.

Insofar as the senator has made any comment about motive, he’s said that he isn’t really sure why he had his ribs caved in by his neighbor. If it were me, and I didn’t know, I’d be wanting to know. And I’d also be calling for a stronger punishment than a misdemeanor charge that comes with a $7,500 fine. Rand Paul could have died from injuries that severe, especially if one of three jagged displaced ribs had severed an artery.  As it is, he’ll probably find it hard to breath for weeks and won’t be fully recovered for half a year or more, if ever.

So, why does he seem so disinterested in learning the reason he was attacked? Why isn’t he calling for felony or federal charges? Why did he seem to downplay what happened when he talked to the police? If it wasn’t a landscaping dispute, what was it? And why does the assailant think he can beat the charges or that it’s in his best interests to plead not guilty?

My guess is that the senator doesn’t want people to know why he was attacked and that he was hoping that the matter could be quietly dropped. This is supported by reporting from the New York Times.

The three Kentucky Republicans, who requested anonymity to discuss the case, said Mr. Paul had been embarrassed by the incident and was not interested in drawing attention to it.

But since Mr. Boucher declined to take the generous offer of a misdemeanor charge for trespassing on a U.S. Senator’s lawn and caving in his chest, I guess this thing is going to head to trial and will draw a ton of attention.

What are the possible defenses for committing this kind of violent assault?  If you’re an attorney, maybe you can tell me. I can think of some mitigating factors like crimes of passion. But other than some kind of insanity defense, I don’t know of any way you can win an acquittal for the kind of crime that Boucher committed in this case unless it was so obviously justified that the jury basically nullifies the charges. I’m thinking something along the lines of child molestation. Yet, neighbors told the Times that Boucher lives alone.

I don’t know if we’ll ever find out what the motive was, and I suspect Rand Paul wants it that way. Everything he’s said and done has indicated that he’s more interested in having the matter dropped than in getting justice for himself.

And that’s just making everyone really curious. If this thing remains a misdemeanor, it will really be stunning. On the other hand, if the charges are dropped entirely, I won’t be shocked. I doubt very much that Rand Paul wants Mr. Boucher explaining himself in court.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com