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United States v. Boucher

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

September 9, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Rene A. Boucher, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: July 31, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Bowling Green. No. 1:18-cr-00004-1-Marianne O. Battani, District Judge. [*]

         ARGUED:

          Bob Wood, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Indianapolis, Indiana, for Appellant.

          Matthew J. Baker, Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Bob Wood, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Indianapolis, Indiana, for Appellant.

          Matthew J. Baker, Bowling Green, Kentucky, for Appellee.

          Before: SILER, STRANCH, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          JANE B. STRANCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Senator Rand Paul was mowing his lawn when he stopped to gather a few limbs in his path. Without warning, Rene Boucher-Paul's next-door neighbor, whom he had not spoken with in years-raced toward Paul and attacked him from behind. The impact broke six of Paul's ribs, caused long-lasting damage to his lung, and led to several bouts of pneumonia. Boucher later pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 351(e). Although his Guidelines sentencing range was 21 to 27 months in prison, the district court sentenced him to 30 days' imprisonment. On appeal, the Government argues that Boucher's sentence was substantively unreasonable. We agree and therefore VACATE his sentence and REMAND for resentencing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Paul and Boucher were neighbors. According to Paul, their relationship was unremarkable-they had not directly spoken in years, though they might wave to one another if they crossed paths on the street. From Boucher's perspective, however, problems between them began in the summer of 2017, when he decided to trim the branches of five maple trees in Paul's backyard that had grown over the Boucher/Paul property line. Sometime shortly thereafter, Paul dropped a bundle of limbs and brush at the edge of his property, apparently in the sightline of Boucher's home. A few weeks passed and the bundle remained. Frustrated by the sight of yard debris, Boucher crossed onto Paul's property, removed the limbs and brush, and hauled them off in dumpsters.

         The following month, Boucher noticed another bundle of limbs and brush in roughly the same location. He hauled it off again. A few days later, a bundle reappeared. This time Boucher did not haul it away; he poured gasoline over the debris and lit a match. The ensuing fireball caught him by surprise. The debris was burned, but so was Boucher-he suffered second-degree burns on his arms, neck, and face.

         When Paul got on his lawnmower the next day, Boucher was watching him from the top of a hill overlooking Paul's property. According to Boucher, he saw Paul "blow all of the leaves from his property onto Boucher's yard." Paul then got off his lawnmower, picked up a few more limbs, and turned toward the site of the burned debris pile. While Paul had his back to the hill, Boucher ran 60 yards downhill and hurled himself headfirst into Paul's lower back. The impact broke six of Paul's ribs, including three that split completely in half. After a brief fracas, Paul left the scene and called the police.

         The Kentucky State Police were the first to respond. In an interview with officers, Boucher admitted to tackling Paul but denied doing so because of Paul's politics. Instead, he described the assault as the culmination of "a property dispute that finally boiled over."

         B. Procedural History

         The Warren County Attorney initially charged Boucher with Fourth Degree Misdemeanor Assault under Kentucky law. He was taken into custody for a few days, after which the FBI intervened and the state charges were dropped. The Government then indicted Boucher on one count of assaulting a member of Congress in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 351(e). Boucher pleaded guilty. His presentence report (PSR) recommended a five-level sentencing enhancement because Paul had suffered "serious bodily injuries." Boucher did not object. The five-level increase was ...


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