Two local men were sentenced at U.S. District Court Monday for their admitted roles in a cocaine distribution operation that stretched from Bronx, N.Y. to Midcoast Maine, according to court records.

Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. ordered Matthew Hurley, 28, of Belfast (formerly of Los Angeles) to serve four years and eight months in prison, to be followed by four years of supervised release. Hurley was also directed to pay a $100 special assessment fee, according to court documents.

Phillip Kelley, 35, of Belfast was also sentenced Monday. Court records show Judge Woodcock ordered Kelley to serve three years and one month in prison and three years of supervised release. Like Matthew Hurley, Kelley was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee.

Both Matthew Hurley and Kelley pleaded guilty in July 2011 to a charge of conspiracy with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams, charges that stemmed their participation in the cocaine distribution ring.

Matthew Hurley’s brother, 30-year-old Christopher Hurley, was also set to be sentenced on the same charge Monday, but court documents show the hearing was postponed because there are still questions surrounding the amount of cocaine Christopher Hurley was responsible for distributing.

All three men were arrested in November of 2010.

Court documents indicate that the cocaine distribution ring, which involved several local defendants who have since pleaded guilty for their involvement in the case, was operational between January of 2005, and March of 2009.

Other members of the conspiracy who have pleaded guilty and been sentenced include Richard Calligan, who was sentenced to serve five years and seven months in prison, Jeffrey Emerson (nine years), Ralphy Dominguez (five years), Carlos Zamora (14 years and four months), Rodney Littlefield (two years and six months), Michael Dunn (three years and one month) and Nathan Dodd (one year and six months).

At Monday’s sentencing hearings for Kelley and Matthew Hurley, the attorneys for both men argued that their clients’ respective roles in the drug operation were considerably smaller than those of their co-defendants, and that their sentences should reflect that.

Kelley’s attorney, Stephen C. Smith of Bangor, argued that Kelley left the drug conspiracy on his own in 2008 and shortly after became employed as a machine cleaner, and then a stone cutter.

“He has worked his way up from a laborer to crew leader, and works long hours at his job. He only got done shortly before pleading guilty,” stated Smith in his sentencing memorandum. “His employer would welcome him back immediately, even in this economy. This type of employment is inconsistent with a person who relies on the drug trade for financial support.”

Smith further stated that the facts surrounding Kelley’s participation in the crime are similar to those presented in Gall vs. United States, which was also a drug trafficking case. In that case, the court sustained a variant sentence of probation even though sentencing guidelines called for imprisonment, because the court recognized the efforts on the part of the defendant to “forge a new life.” The court ruled that any term of imprisonment would be countereffective because it would deprive society of the contributions of the defendant in the case.

“In fact, the defendant’s post-offense conduct was not motivated by a desire to please the Court or any other governmental agency, but was the pre-indictment product of the defendant’s own desire to lead a better life,” stated Smith’s memorandum, with regard to the Gall case.

Smith stated that such a description also applies to Kelley, who with the exception of his involvement with the drug conspiracy has — in the attorney’s words — “led a good and productive life.” Smith referred to letters of support that were submitted to the court on Kelley’s behalf.

“The letters submitted in support of [Kelley] demonstrate that imprisonment is likewise unnecessary here to deter him from engaging in future criminal conduct or to protect the public from his future criminal acts,” stated Smith. “As was the case in Gall, a sentence below the guidelines is warranted.”

Matthew Hurley’s attorney, Leonard Sharon of Auburn, argued that his client has consistently disputed the amount of cocaine he was charged with distributing, noting that Matthew Hurley began his involvement with the conspiracy in June 2005 and removed himself from it in December of 2006.

Sharon said his client “believes he is responsible for 1.3 to 1.9 kilograms of cocaine,” while the government has sought to connect Matthew Hurley to 3.34 kilograms of the drug, according to court records.

In his explanation of Matthew Hurley’s position, Sharon laid the bulk of the blame for the large scale drug operation on several “cooperating defendants,” who were referred to throughout court records as “CD1, 2, and 3.”

“The disparity focuses upon the weight handled by a separate conspiracy which found CD1, CD2 and CD3 running a cocaine distribution ring in Massachusetts-Maine and dealing cocaine in amounts unthinkable to Matthew [Hurley] in his earlier dealings with CD3,” stated Sharon. “Whether we argue that Matthew [Hurley] was not a part of the conspiracy or that the amounts distributed were unforeseen to him, the end result is the same. CD1, CD2 and CD3’s business was no business of Matthew [Hurley’s].”

To further this argument about the concept of foreseeability, Sharon pointed to the trial of major German war criminals at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, which opened Oct. 18, 1945 and aimed to prosecute those who were involved in Nazi war crimes. Sharon quoted the post-trial criticism of then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who acted as the United States prosecutor for the proceedings:

“A codefendant in a conspiracy trial occupies an uneasy seat,” said Jackson. “There generally will be evidence of wrongdoing by somebody. It is difficult for the individual to make his own case stand on its own merits in the minds of jurors, who are ready to believe that birds of a feather are flocked together.”

In addition to Sharon’s argument that his client could not have foreseen the rapid growth of the drug distribution operation, he also stated that Matthew Hurley contends that there were actually two separate drug rings and that he had limited involvement with the smaller-scale operation.

“The large amounts of cocaine dealt by CD1 and CD2 with CD3 were not part of any agreement Matthew [Hurley] entered into and they certainly were not foreseeable,” concluded Sharon.

The sentences Judge Woodcock imposed upon Kelley and Matthew Hurley were considerably less than what they could have been sentenced to for the charges they faced. Court records show that a charge of conspiracy with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine typically carries a minimum of five to a maximum of 40 years in prison, fines of up to $400,000 and between four years and a lifetime of supervised release.

The prosecution’s version of events state that the drug distribution conspiracy was discovered when police raided the home of an individual identified in court documents as a “cooperating defendant” (or CD) on March 20, 2009. At that time it was learned that the source of the cocaine was a co-conspirator located in Bronx, N.Y., identified as Carlos Flores Zamora.

Zamora, 34, pleaded guilty to charges of distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. In September 2010, Zamora was sentenced to serve more than 14 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release, with the stipulation Zamora will be surrendered to the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation upon his release from prison.

If Zamora is deported upon his release, court documents state that he should remain outside the United States to carry out the terms of his supervised release. Court documents indicated Zamora had been removed from the country once in 1998, and on at least one more occasion in 2004.

The prosecution asserted that Kelley, as well as several others, sold cocaine in Waldo County. The prosecution further stated that two CDs said they began receiving four or five ounces of cocaine twice a month from a third CD in late 2005, and that within a year the deliveries increased to 10 ounces every three or four weeks.

One of the CDs told authorities, according to court records, that Kelley was his neighbor and had also been his customer for about a year prior to the raid of his home. Court records stated Kelley had fronted one to two ounces of cocaine per week from his neighbor, and that initially, Kelley’s neighbor suspected that he was fronting the drug for another person to sell. Eventually, Kelley introduced his neighbor to another man who was reportedly selling the cocaine from Kelley’s residence.