BY MELANIE WADE –
A Polk County jury rendered an 80-year sentence to a Mena man last week following his conviction in Polk County Circuit Court on drug related charges, sending a strong and clear message to other dealers in the area that law abiding citizens want to see an end to the drug epidemic that grips every community across the nation. Michael Thomas Rethore, age 59, of Mena, was a self-admitted drug dealer, according to police reports, and will now spend up to the next eight decades behind bars for his offenses.
Rethore was arrested on September 23, 2016 on a multitude of drug related charges when the Mena Police Department served a search warrant at his home. Rethore was eventually charged with Possession of Methamphetamine with the Purpose to Deliver, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and Firearms.
Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner praised the efforts of Mena Police Officer Ronnie Richardson, whose investigative skills led to the defendant admitting during the interview process that he had been dealing drugs in Mena for the last seven to eight years. “He is an unrepentant drug dealer,” said Riner.
When the arrest warrant was served, police found marijuana, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, a loaded gun, and approximately $8,000 in cash. “He admitted that about half of that money came from selling drugs,” said Riner.
Mena Police Chief Brandon Martin said, “Any drug dealer we take off the street helps the community – the less product available on the street, the less it’s in town. We work hard everyday to keep drugs out of our community. I’m really pleased that the jury sent a clear and precise message that they are tired of it. I think they sent the message that dealing drugs in our community will not be tolerated.” Martin also gave high regards to his team and the prosecutor’s office. “Andy did a great job presenting the case and our officers did an outstanding job working the case.”
Rethore is a first time offender. He will serve three consecutive sentences on the charges – 20 years each for the drug charges and 40 years for the simultaneous possession charge. The jury recommended the sentence and each term is set to run consecutively, totaling 80 years behind bars. At minimum, he will serve one-sixth of the drug charge sentences and one-quarter of the simultaneous possession charge, equaling at least 16 years. Rethore was immediately remanded to the Polk County Detention Center awaiting transport to the Arkansas Department of Corrections where his sentences will be served.
Polk County’s message is a stark contrast to what is happening in neighboring states, specifically Oklahoma. Just over four grams of methamphetamine were found in Rethore’s home when he was arrested. In 2017 in the state of Oklahoma, laws changed the amount of drugs that warrant a felony charge, making most small possessions simple misdemeanors. The state changed the law to help combat overcrowding in prisons. Although the laws are still being debated and it varies by county, it would take an amount equal to trafficking (around 20 grams of methamphetamine) or knowledge of the intent to sell or distribute the drugs for an arrest to be made. In Rethore’s case, intent to distribute was recognized; however, had it not, it’s possible he would have been charged a misdemeanor and set free under current Oklahoma legislation. In Arkansas, he received a much harsher sentence.