updated 9/17/2008 6:03:19 PM ET 2008-09-17T22:03:19

A man charged with failing to help a toddler who died of dehydration under his sister's care accepted a plea deal that will likely keep him out of prison.

Robert Patterson, 31, pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge of risk of injury to a minor. The charge could bring up to 10 years in prison, but the recommended sentence under the plea deal is five years of probation.

Amari Jackson was 23 months old when he died in February. Police said Patterson's 39-year-old sister, Sharon Patterson, deprived the boy of food and liquids for at least seven days as punishment for wetting a bed.

Amari's mother, Sara Hicks, said Robert Patterson deserves prison time.

"It seems like they're getting off on a technicality," she said. "It doesn't make sense. ... He sat back and let it happen."

She says she had entrusted her son to Sharon Patterson, the mother of a longtime friend, because she was sick with a fever and had an infant to care for as well.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Michael Pepper said the plea deal reflects the applicable law and Robert Patterson's relatively passive role. Sentencing is set for Nov. 7.

The Pattersons were arrested on April after an autopsy concluded that Amari died of dehydration. Robert Patterson told police he occasionally tried to give beverages to the boy, but his sister would take them away.

Sharon Patterson is charged with manslaughter, risk of injury to a minor and cruelty. She was deemed incompetent to stand trial, with another competency hearing set for next month.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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