A former New York City jail guard convicted of ignoring the pleas of a dying inmate has made a last-minute claim his legal representation was insufficient, leading a federal judge to postpone his sentencing.

Terrence Pendergrass had faced up to 10 years in prison at his scheduled Thursday sentencing. The 51-year-old ex-captain was convicted in December of depriving Rikers Island inmate Jason Echevarria of his civil rights.

Prosecutors say Pendergrass ignored the pleas for help made by Echevarria after he swallowed toxic soap detergent in a now-closed solitary confinement unit for mentally ill inmates. Echevarria died.

Before the last-minute claim of insufficient counsel Pendergrass apologized to Echevarria's father.

Echevarria's father had asked the judge to not show leniency.

No new sentencing date has been set.