Cotter woman guilty of involvement in two meth sales, gets 10-year prison sentence

A Cotter woman has been found guilty of being involved in sales of about 20 grams of methamphetamine to a person working with law enforcement. Fifty-year-old Rachel Ann Callaway was sentenced to 10 years in prison during a hearing in a Marion County courtroom Monday.

The proceedings were moved to Marion County to facilitate the travel of those involved in the hearing from Harrison and Mountain Home.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Callaway was accused of being a major player in the delivery of methamphetamine in transactions on May 7 and May 9 last year. Investigators with the 14th Judicial District Drug Task Force monitored both sales.

A bench trial was held in Mountain Home May 21 before Circuit Judge Gordon Webb during which the defense argued while Callaway had been present during the two drug sales, she had played more of a middleman role than being an active participant in the delivery of the methamphetamine.

Callaway's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sam Pasthing, said it was 37-year-old Duane Burr who actually had the drug in his possession and set the price for it. Pasthing told the court his client did not handle the methamphetamine or take the money in either transaction. Testimony indicated Callaway and the confidential informant had gone to Burr's house along Circle Drive where the methamphetamine and money actually changed hands.

Pasthing cited several prior cases he said indicated the "middle man" must play a more active role than his client did in the actual sale of the drug to sustain a delivery charge. He told the court "leading someone to drugs is not delivering drugs."

During the May 21 bench trial, in which Webb served as both judge and jury, Pasthing asked the court to review the cited cases before deciding guilt or innocence, or determining Callaway's sentence. Judge Webb said he would take the matter under advisement and announce his decision after reviewing the cases Pasthing cited.

On Monday, Judge Webb said his review of the cases cited by the defense did not change his opinion that Callaway was a major player in making the arrangements, knowing where the seller was located, promoting the drug sales by discussing the quality of the meth available from the seller and what price would be charged. He said the evidence in the case made it clear Callaway was the "seller's agent."

Fourteenth Judicial District Prosecutor David Ethredge said from the evidence presented by the state during the bench trial there could be "no doubt" Callaway was one of the pivotal players in the two drug sales.

The defense contended Callaway did not make money from the sales, but Ethredge told the court when the confidential informant left Burr's residence after the second buy, Callaway stayed behind with him. Ethredge said there had been an opportunity for money to pass between Callaway and Burr at that point. He said while the defense had claimed Callaway received no money for the two drug deals, no evidence had been offered to prove the contention.

Callaway declined to testify during last month's bench trial.

Audio/video recordings of the two controlled buys were made using a "wire" worn by the confidential informant. The recordings were played during the bench trial. At the conclusion, Ethredge said it was telling that Callaway had commented on the quality of the methamphetamine the two women were on their way to purchase. She told the informant the drug was "the best in town."

The confidential informant took the stand and testified during the May 21 hearing about her actions in setting up and carrying out the two drug sales. She said she had contacted Callaway, who lived in the same apartment complex, about the possibility of buying methamphetamine, and it was Callaway who took her to Burr. The informant said she did not know Burr until encountering him during the drug buys. She said Callaway had to direct her to the man's house.

Ethredge said based on Callaway's comments during the two sales,"showed she knew exactly what she was doing. Duane Burr and Rachel Callaway were both involved in selling methamphetamine," the prosecutor told the court.

Police executed a search warrant on Burr's residence May 24 last year. They reported finding drug paraphernalia and other suspect items. Burr was also charged with participating in the two methamphetamine sales. He pled guilty Jan. 17 and was put on probation for 10 years. Burr was also ordered to spend a year in one of the Community Correction Centers in the state to participate in an addiction treatment program.

The recording of one of the controlled buys showed things almost going haywire as the informant and Callaway drove to Burr's's house. A Mountain Home Police officer pulled a vehicle being driven by the informant over for a minor traffic infraction. He was contacted and told to back off by investigators involved in the drug bust, and let the women go with a verbal warning.

After the stop, Callaway told the confidential informant, "that's the first time I have ever been stopped that I didn't go to jail."

At another point, Callaway asked to borrow the special phone used to record the transactions. She wanted to call the public defenders' office. She made the call without discovering the phone was actually a "wire" being used by the informant.

Pasthing moved for a directed verdict at the bench trial's conclusion, a standard procedure in which defense attorneys allege the state has not introduced sufficient evidence to convict, and the court should dismiss the charges. Judge Webb denied the motion. He ruled the state had put on "more than sufficient evidence" to allow a judge or jury to reach a conclusion based on that evidence.

While she did not testify during the bench trial, during Monday's sentencing hearing, a frequently tearful Callaway did take the stand to tell the court about her battle with addictions -- beginning with prescription pain killers and graduating to meth. She said she had been working to turn her life around since her latest arrest. She told the judge she wanted to stay free on probation to help others struggling with addictions.

Her attorney said the testimony she gave Monday "is not a show for the court." Pasthing said his client "would like to help battle drugs in the community."

Ethredge told the court he appreciated Callaway's efforts to rid herself of a meth addiction, but said the state saw her as "someone selling meth into our community." The prosecutor said Callaway was "no stranger to the drug subculture, and she knew exactly what she was doing in setting up the two sales" made to the confidential informant.

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