Rene Boucher, who attacked Rand Paul at his Kentucky home last year, has pled guilty in Federal court:
At first glance, this appears to be as things should be. Given what information is publicly available, it seems clear that Boucher was the aggressor ,and attacked Paul, although Paul posed no threat to Boucher.
But there's a problem here. The case was tried in federal court even though there is no shortage of state laws that forbid assault and battery. So why is the federal government involved? Well, it should surprise few people that there are two sets of laws in the United States: one for high ranking government officials, and another set of laws for everyone else.
By attacking a very-special member of the American ruling class, Boucher opened himself up to federal charges of "assaulting a member of Congress resulting in personal injury, a felony under federal law."
This situation is relatively new, however.
Once upon a time, attacks against federal politicians were handled by state law. As one legal blog correctly notes, this changed with the adoption of 18 U.S.C. 351into the US code:
This law provides for a death penalty for killing a member of Congress, a presidential or vice presidential candidate, or a Supreme Court justice, as well as imprisonment up to life for attempting to kill such a person...
The background of this law is interesting. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, it was not a federal crime to kill a U.S. president. Had alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald been tried, the trial would have taken place in a Texas state court. In 1965, Congress passed a law, 18 U.S.C. 1751, making it a federal crime to kill, kidnap, or assault the President or the Vice President.
In 1968, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. That was not a federal crime at the time, and Sirhan Sirhan was convicted in California state court for the murder and sentenced to death. (That sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972, when that state abolished the death penalty, and Sirhan remains in a California state prison.) In 1971, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. 351, which extended the protection of the Federal criminal law to members of Congress, paralleling that extended to the President and the Vice President.
One can be sure, of course, that when important federal personnel are victims, federal investigators will bring to bear a large amount of focus and resources. On the other hand, when it's just ordinary school children, as in the case of the Parkland school shooting in Florida, the FBI is much too busy to pay attention.