BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Rand Paul was on the verge of becoming a powerful senator and the nation’s leading libertarian. His neighbor was a successful doctor and Kennedy-style Democrat who favored nationalized medicine.
They might have sparred over health care or taxes, but an acquaintance of both said they stood in their yards roughly a decade ago shouting at each other over the grass clippings Paul’s mower had shot on Rene Boucher’s property.
“ ‘I ask him, I tell him and he won’t pay attention,’ “ the acquaintance, Bill Goodwin, recalls Boucher saying after the argument. “ ‘One of these days.’ “
That day may have come recently, when Boucher’s attorney said in an interview his client attacked Paul over long-simmering disagreements between the two about the care of grass, trees and other landscaping on their adjacent properties in an exclusive gated community.
The account marks the first time either side has offered a reason for one of the nation’s most talked-about political mysteries: What sparked the worst attack on a sitting senator in decades?
The assault left Paul, 54, with six cracked ribs, a case of pneumonia and briefly sidelined during a crucial debate over a tax overhaul in Washington. Boucher, 59, has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in the case and could yet face more serious consequences.
Federal prosecutors said they are investigating the case. Boucher could be charged under several federal statutes, including one rarely used provision that bars assaults on members of Congress and other high-ranking government officials.
Intrigue has deepened in the weeks since the Nov. 3 assault as Paul and Boucher have remained largely quiet about what prompted it. Neither would comment for this article.
Into the vacuum, competing theories for the assault have been floated, like so many Washington trial balloons. They range from the mundane, such as bad blood over spoiled views of a lake, to the outlandish — an antifa plot.
Some conservative media outlets have suggested the attack might have been motivated by Boucher’s liberal politics. Paul appeared to endorse that idea by retweeting the stories. Boucher, a registered Democrat, was critical of President Donald Trump on his now-deleted Facebook page.
Paul, who gave his first TV interview about the attack last week with Fox News, said he had not talked to Boucher in 10 years, but didn’t say what caused the assault. He said it was beside the point.
“After my ribs were broken then he said things to me to try to indicate why he was unhappy but I think the, I guess to me the bottom line is it isn’t so important — if someone mugs you is it really justified for any reason?” Paul said.
But so far, interviews with friends and area residents who would talk, and a review of court files and police records that have been made public reveal only the type of small-time neighborly conflict that has vexed many a suburban relationship.
“There is absolutely no political motivation behind this,” said Boucher’s attorney Matthew J. Baker. “It all stems from maintenance, or lack of it, at these two neighboring properties.”