BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul testified Monday that he feared for his life after being hit by a blindside tackle from a neighbor, who broke several of his ribs while he was doing yard work at his Kentucky home.
The Republican senator was the first witness in the trial on his lawsuit against attacker Rene Boucher.
Boucher's lawyer told jurors that Paul has resumed his normal lifestyle, including golfing and skiing.
In recounting the 2017 attack, Paul said he got off his riding mower to pick up a stick and was straightening up when Boucher hit him with such force that both flew through the air 5 or 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters).
Paul said he was bloodied, hurting and had trouble breathing.
"At this point, I thought, 'I can't breathe. ... If I do nothing, this may be the last breath I ever take, because whoever is doing this isn't stopping.' And I really thought if I got another blow to my back, I wasn't going to survive. And so really I did think I could die at that point. The thought crossed my mind that I may never get up from this lawn again," Paul said.
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.
Paul was able to pull his attacker off him, and he said that's when he realized the assailant was his neighbor.
Paul said he went back to his home and called friends, neighbors and 911. He said he was concerned he might be attacked again.
Hoping to avoid publicity, he initially was treated at the office of a friend who is an orthopedist instead of going to the hospital. Paul said he treated the pain with heavy doses of ibuprofen. He said he was reluctant to go to an emergency room for fear of catching flu or another illness that would cause him to cough because the pain would be so intense with broken ribs.
Paul said he didn't want to take narcotic painkillers.
"My thought was, 'Do I want to take the risk of becoming addicted to something that I'm going to have to take for months and months?'" Paul said.
Boucher's lawyer, Matt Baker, said in his opening statement Monday that Boucher already has been "punished substantially" for the attack.
Baker told the jury that Paul has resumed his "customary lifestyle" since the attack. Baker also noted that Paul hit a single and played outfield in the congressional baseball game since the attack.
"He's even golfed with the president since all this took place," Baker said.
Baker also brought up the condition of Paul's yard, which Boucher has cited as the reason for the attack. Boucher, who is expected to testify at the trial, has said he "lost his temper" because Paul stacked debris near their property line.
Baker said he'll ask the jury for a "reasonable award," for Paul's pain and suffering but said no punitive damages should be awarded.
Paul is seeking up to $500,000 in compensatory damages and up to $1 million in punitive damages.
Boucher pleaded guilty to assaulting a member of Congress and was sentenced to 30 days behind bars. Federal prosecutors have appealed the sentence, saying 21 months would have been appropriate.
Earlier Monday, lawyers chose 12 jurors and two alternates to hear the case.
Paul's lawyer, Tom Kerrick, asked prospective jurors if any had an issue with something Paul supported or didn't support that could make it difficult for them to render an impartial verdict. There was silence from the jury pool.