LOCKPORT — He apologized for all the delays, but continued to insist his guilty plea was a mistake.

Still, Christopher Cauley, identified by cops as one of the key cocaine suppliers of the Pizza Connection drug ring, left Niagara County Court on Thursday facing the next nine years behind bars.

Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza sentenced Cauley to just one year less than the maximum prison term he faced for his plea to a charge of second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

“I apologize to the court for the time this has taken,” Cauley said. “You know I haven’t had a trial and that my wish was to withdraw my plea and that my plea was involuntary.”

Sperrazza told Cauley she had already ruled on that, and denied that request, and asked him if he had anything else to say before she sentenced him.

Cauley hung his head and said no.

With a jury chosen, sworn in and waiting to hear opening statement’s in his trial on Sept. 7, Cauley surprised everyone in the case by suddenly deciding to take a plea deal. The deal resulted in the dismissal of seven other charges he had been facing,

While Cauley was lead away in shackles to start serving his sentence on Thursday, another man, also identified by cops and prosecutors as a major supplier to the drug ring controlled and run by four members of the Sepe family out of their Main Street pizzeria, remained out of jail for at least a little while longer.

Sperrazza adjourned the scheduled sentencing of John Pietrangelo of Niagara Falls, Ontario, after his attorney, Mark Mahoney, claimed he needed more time to answer what he called “baseless accusations” contained in a pre-sentencing report prepared by the Niagara County Probation Department. Pietrangelo pleaded guilty in August to a single charge of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Mahoney said his client had been “ambushed” in the report.

“There are a lot of accusations made in the pre-sentence report that aren’t borne out by the evidence. These accusations that he was a supplier, that’s not true and (prosecutors) know it,” Mahoney said. “There was only one sale and it was at the instigation of the Sepes, who were acting as government agents. They make him out to seem like a bigger fish than he is. He came in very late in the game and it was one deal.”

However, in laying out the operation of the drug ring, investigators have said Pietrangelo and Cauley supplied the Sepes with large quantities of cocaine, which the family would then distribute to “street level” dealers for resale. Pietrangelo reportedly used couriers or “mules” to carry cocaine from Canada over the Rainbow and Whirlpool bridges.

Sperrazza also sentenced two other Pizza Connection case defendants. Mark Hickey, who had pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree conspiracy, was sentenced to six months in the Niagara County Jail and four and a half years probation.

The judge also fined Hickey $5,000.

His attorney told Sperrazza that Hickey was “not a drug trafficker” and has multiple medical conditions that would make a prison sentence hard for him to survive.

“This is a tough one,” the judge said. “Fifty-four years old, not in good health, a first offense, but he has two ounces of cocaine (when arrest by police).”

Hickey told the judge he didn’t know how much cocaine he had and said it was put in his car by an unknown person.

Investigators said Hickey traveled to Canada specifically to pick-up cocaine at a bar there and had the drugs hidden in his underwear when he was stopped by narcotics detectives.

Sperrazza sentenced Robert Seger, on his guilty plea to a charge of fourth-degree conspiracy, to five years probation, including 10 weekends in the Niagara County Jail. She had originally postponed Seger’s sentencing because the judge felt he had lied to probation officers and to her.

“Your honor, I’m sorry for lying to you in court,” Seger said.

“You do realize you made it worse by lying,” Sperrazza said. “You made me angry. We knew you were involved (in buying drugs) by looking at the evidence.”