Venezuelan native Inaky G. "Nicky" Markevitch was ticketed by a Seminole County deputy in late December for violating the statewide burn by reportedly burning trash in a barrel outside his Wewoka car dealership. Markevitch's offense came one day after devastating wildfires destroyed hundreds of acres of Seminole County, so although his offense was serious, emotions were particularly high.

Markevitch, a 20-year-United States resident, testified he did not intentionally start a fire but picked up a piece of red-hot metal from the welding area in his shop and dropped it into a 55-gallon drum containing discarded tree limbs. He admittedly left the fire and ran an errand, but maintained six employees were present so the fire was not unattended. No other fire resulted from Markevitch's burning trash barrel.

Markevitch pleaded guilty to the offense, believing he was paying a ticket. Instead, he was immediately committed to the county jail on a one year sentence and a $500 fine. He served three days before being released on an appeal bond.

In a recent hearing to discuss modification of the sentence, the judge explained Markevitch's attitude the day he was sentenced played a role in him receiving the maximum penalty. He was reportedly "lax" about his actions in court, admitted he was aware of the statewide burn ban and was quoted as saying, "I can do whatever I want on my own property," and "I am a very busy man, I just want to get this over with."

Despite the judge's attempts to convey to Markevitch the importance of hiring a lawyer, he chose not to do so initially. Markevitch's bad attitude, coupled with the absence of a valid defense argument by legal representation, landed him in jail on the maximum penalty available for the offense.

Once Markevitch experienced jail time and learned of the seriousness of his crime he sought an attorney and changed his attitude.

Markevitch and his attorney are now working on modifying his sentence. In a recent hearing, he apologized to the court repeatedly for his actions and said he has learned his lesson.

Although only a small fraction of his sentence has been served, Markevitch believes spending three days in jail, a $500 fine plus court costs, the attorney's fees, and the embarrassment and humiliation he has incurred should be punishment enough, and it should.

Markevitch is a self-employed businessman, husband and father, but not a criminal. One year in jail would cripple his family who is dependent on him for income.

He was completely in the wrong when he started the fire and should have been more sensitive to the matter, but a lack of sensitivity is not a crime in itself.

Markevitch has been adequately punished and should not be further penalized for his poor judgment.