The man accused of attacking Sen. Rand Paul on Friday may soon face more serious criminal charges because the Kentucky Republican is suffering from several rib injuries, law enforcement officials said Monday.
An attorney for the man charged in the attack, Rene Boucher, also said Monday that the dispute had “absolutely nothing to do with either’s politics or political agendas” and was merely “a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.”
But new information about the extent of Paul’s injuries could prompt prosecutors to charge Boucher with a felony, according to Trooper Jeremy Hodges, a spokesman for the Kentucky State Police.
Paul, a second-term senator and former GOP presidential candidate, was attacked by Boucher, 59, on Friday outside his home in Bowling Green, Ky., police said. Boucher was charged with fourth-degree assault and released on Saturday on $7,500 bond.
The misdemeanor charge against Boucher applies to cases in which no weapon is involved and the victim receives minor injuries, Hodges said.
At the time of the assault, Paul had “trouble breathing due to a potential rib injury,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Warren County District Court. On Sunday, Paul’s office announced he was recovering from five rib fractures, including three displaced fractures, meaning the bones are partly or completely cracked. He has lung contusions, or bruises, caused by the broken ribs, and his recovery could last several months, his office said.
Given those injuries, Hodges said police and prosecutors will now consider upgrading the charges.
“It requires serious physical injury in order for someone to be charged with a felony,” Hodges said. “Our arresting officer will submit his completed case report and then the prosecutors will make a decision about whether to upgrade those charges.”
The state police investigation remains open and active and the formal police report on the incident has not yet been filed with county officials, Hodges said.
County and state prosecutors didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
The FBI is assisting state and local authorities to see whether there were any violations of federal law, but an FBI spokesman declined to comment Monday on a possible motive.
Boucher’s attorney, Matthew J. Baker, said Monday that the two men have been neighbors for 17 years and are both “prominent members” of the Bowling Green medical community and had worked together in the past. Paul is an ophthalmologist and Boucher is a retired anesthesiologist.
What could cause Boucher to attack Paul and break five of his ribs remained unclear on Monday. Baker didn’t immediately clarify his statement, and a number listed for Boucher went unanswered on Monday.
“We sincerely hope that Senator Paul is doing well and that these two gentlemen can get back to being neighbors as quickly as possible,” Baker added.
Paul did not return to Washington on Monday as he normally would for U.S. Senate proceedings, according to his chief of staff, Doug Stafford.
“It is a pending, serious criminal matter involving state and federal authorities. We won’t have any further comments at this time,” Stafford said in an email.
After the incident on Friday, Paul told police that Boucher had come onto his property and tackled the senator from behind, “forcing him to the ground and causing him pain,” according to the criminal complaint.
Boucher admitted to “going onto Paul’s property and tackling him,” the report said.
In addition to his broken ribs, Paul suffered small cuts to the nose and mouth area.
Boucher was released Saturday on bond and ordered to not have any contact with Paul, his family or offices or to obtain any firearms or weapons of any kind, according to bond paperwork provided by the county.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday wished his Bluegrass State colleague a speedy recovery. McConnell told reporters in Kentucky that Paul’s absence creates another challenge in what he described as a daily “Maalox moment” prompted by the struggles to hold together his 52-member caucus, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s potentially a challenge” any time a Republican senator is absent from the Senate, McConnell added, because his caucus isn’t “always totally in lockstep,” the AP reported.
Even as local authorities tried to piece together charges and a potential motive, there was an effort among some in national conservative media circles to find a political motive for the attack.
The Daily Caller noted that Boucher had been a registered Democrat and shared a post from his Facebook page “citing left-wing academic Noam Chomsky’s criticism of the Republican party.”
The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s online news site, told readers on Sunday that FBI investigators believed “the attack, which occurred Friday afternoon, was politically motivated.” That claim, widely circulated on Monday, came from a report on Kentucky’s WNKY-TV, which did not quote or name a source. As Paul’s office kept mostly quiet about the case, speculation ran rampant.
“It appears that Boucher’s assault of the Republican senator is another instance of political violence prompted by the climate of hate that has been fostered by the Democratic Party,” wrote John Hinderaker on the conservative blog Powerline. “Where will it end?”
The conservative Media Research Center, citing the Facebook posts, told subscribers to its newsletter that “Rand Paul’s Injuries From His ‘Socialist’ Neighbor May Be Worse Than First Thought.”
David Weigel and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.