It’s unusual for an appeals court to tamper with the sentence meted out by a trial judge, in this instance, U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani, brought in from Michigan for the case. But the court suggested that the assailant, Rene A. Boucher, an affluent physician like Paul, had gotten special treatment because of his social status.
Judge Jane B. Stranch, writing for the panel, noted that the sentencing judge had justified the punishment in part on Boucher being an “educated person,” with no criminal history, respected in the community and at church, and the father of two children “doing very well.”
“To prioritize a defendant’s education, professional success, and standing in the community” gives a “leg up to defendants who are already in a privileged position,” Stranch wrote. “Indigent defendants are less likely to impress a sentencing court with their education, employment record, or local reputation.”
Battani had called the assault an “isolated incident” and a “dispute between neighbors” not motivated by politics.
The panel, in response to an appeal brought by federal prosecutors in the case, did not order a specific new sentence. But its 16-page opinion said there was “no compelling justification for Boucher’s well-below-Guidelines sentence” and ordered the lower court to reweigh it.
Neighbors said at the time that Paul and Boucher had long-simmering tensions over the way Paul cared for his property and that the two had not spoken in years.
Boucher had been feuding with the senator over lawn debris he claimed Paul left within eyesight of Boucher’s property.
On Nov. 3, 2017, he observed Paul blowing “all of the leaves from his property into Boucher’s yard.”
When Paul turned his back, Boucher, then 59, sprinted 60 yards downhill, according to the court, “and hurled himself headfirst into Paul’s lower back.”
Local officials dropped state assault charges when the FBI got involved, and Boucher was charged with one count of assaulting a member of Congress, to which he pleaded guilty after a plea agreement. His presentence report recommended an enhanced sentence because of the extent of Paul’s injuries.
In January, a Kentucky jury awarded Paul more than $580,000 in damages for the injuries he suffered.