Jury awards Rand Paul more than $580K after attack by neighbor in Kentucky

/ AP

Bowling Green, Ky. — Sen. Rand Paul has been awarded more than $580,000 in damages and medical expenses Wednesday in his lawsuit against the neighbor who tackled him and broke several of his ribs. The surprise attack by Rene Boucher occurred in 2017 while the Republican lawmaker was doing yard work at his Kentucky home.

On Wednesday, a Kentucky jury awarded $375,000 in punitive damages and $200,000 for pain and suffering, plus $7,834 for medical expenses. They had deliberated for less than two hours.

Paul had testified during the three-day trial he feared for his life as he struggled to breathe after Boucher slammed into him in their upscale Bowling Green neighborhood.

Paul said afterward he hopes the jury's verdict sends a "clear message that violence is not the answer."

Rene Boucher and Sen. Rand Paul

"This lawsuit wasn't about me. It was about all of us and what we find acceptable as a society. We need to send a clear message that violence is not the answer — anytime, anywhere," Paul said. "We can hold different views, whether it's politics, religion or day to day matters."

Boucher's lawyer, Matt Baker, said they will appeal.

"We all expected that Sen. Paul would get a verdict in his favor," Baker said. "This far exceeds anything that we were expecting."

The trial included testimony from doctors as well as other neighbors, but the most riveting testimony came from Paul and Boucher. Paul, a former GOP presidential candidate, told the jury Monday that immediately after the attack, "the thought crossed my mind that I may never get up from this lawn again."

An apologetic Boucher acknowledged he wasn't thinking rationally and called it "two minutes of my life I wish I could take back." Paul showed no outward emotion, sitting between his lawyer and his wife in the courtroom, as Boucher recounted the attack.

In his lawsuit, Paul sought up to $500,000 in compensatory damages and up to $1 million in punitive damages. Baker conceded during the trial that a "reasonable award" might be in order for Paul's pain and suffering but said no punitive damages should be awarded. Baker said that Paul had resumed his "customary lifestyle" that includes golf and a skiing excursion.

After the verdict, Baker said "multiple issues" will come up during their appeal. Asked if Boucher has the financial resources to pay the damages, the attorney replied: "We're going to talk about that."

Boucher has already served a 30-day prison sentence after pleading guilty to assaulting a member of Congress. Federal prosecutors have appealed, saying 21 months would have been appropriate. Boucher also paid a $10,000 fine and served 100 hours of community service in the criminal case.

Yard waste dispute behind Rand Paul's assault?

Both Paul and Boucher recounted with great detail their accounts of the attack.

Paul testified he got off his riding mower to pick up a stick and was straightening up when Boucher hit him from behind with such force both flew through the air 5 or 10 feet. He said he was wearing noise-canceling headphones and didn't hear Boucher coming toward him.

For a moment, Paul said, he had a flashback to the 2017 shooting at a baseball field when members of Congress were practicing for a game. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana suffered serious injuries in that shooting.

The attack in Paul's yard was motivated by lawn care, not politics.

Boucher told the jury he attacked Paul after watching the senator begin forming a brush pile near their property line.

The day before the attack, Boucher said, he had burned another brush pile Paul had created near the boundary. He doused that pile with gasoline and set it on fire, Boucher said. An explosion burned his face, neck and arms, and Boucher said he was still in severe pain when he attacked Paul the next day. Boucher testified he had hauled away previous brush piles accumulated by Paul without asking the senator.

Boucher testified he tried to talk to Paul about his lawn maintenance concerns, but was rebuffed. Paul maintained in his testimony he kept any brush pile on his own property.

First published on January 30, 2019

© 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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