WEWOKA — A 52-year-old Wewoka man sentenced to one year in jail and $500 for violating the statewide burn ban, apologized to the court and learned this week he may not have to serve time after all.

In a Seminole County hearing Tuesday, Special Judge Gayla Arnold approved a motion to modify the previous sentence she originally imposed and ordered both attorneys in the case to submit briefs making recommendations of appropriate punishment.

Records indicate Venezuelan native Inaky G. "Nicky" Markevitch was ticketed by a Seminole County deputy in late December for violating the statewide burn ban. Markevitch's offense came one day after devastating wildfires destroyed hundreds of acres of Seminole County.

Markevitch, a 20-year United States resident, was reportedly burning trash in a barrel outside his car dealership and left the fire unattended while he ran an errand. Upon his return to the business he was met by law enforcement and issued a citation for the offense.

Markevitch pleaded guilty in a Seminole County court Jan. 3, believing he was just paying a ticket. Instead of the fine Markevitch expected, the judge accepted Assistant District Attorney Paul Smith's recommendation and ordered one year in the county jail and a $500 fine, the maximum penalty. Markevitch was immediately committed to the county jail on the misdemeanor offense.

"I thought I would just get fine," Markevitch said in broken English. "I did not know by burning trash in an incinerator you could go to jail."

After Markevitch posted bail Jan. 6 he hired an attorney and filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Markevitch's attorney Rob Pyron told the court his client does not wish to withdraw his guilty plea but requests the court modify his sentence.

Markevitch took the stand Tuesday and testified he did not intentionally start a fire but picked up a piece of hot metal from the welding area in his shop and dropped it into a 55-gallon drum containing discarded tree limbs. Markevitch testified he left the shop but six employees were present so the fire was not unattended.

"I am very scared for fire. I know I should have used precautions and I am very sorry. Now I know it is not legal," Markevitch said during testimony.

"There's no good face to paint on it, we have a violation of the burn ban. But Mr. Markevitch is not a criminal," Pyron said.

During testimony, Deputy David Hanson, who ticketed Markevitch, said the fire was unattended upon his arrival. Hanson testified the only employee present told him Markevitch started the fire after he told him not to.

"He told us he knew there was a burn ban and he had a lax attitude about it," Hanson said.

"This is an aggravated offense that deserves a $500 fine and a year in jail," Smith said. "It was reasonable when the court made the decision the first time and it is reasonable now."

After hearing arguments from both sides, Arnold set the motion to modify for a further hearing and scheduled this case for review at 1 p.m. Jan. 31.