- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes must pay more than $40,000 in child support and alimony by next Friday or face a minimum of 90 days in jail, according to a court order filed Wednesday in a long-running civil case with his estranged wife, NiShea Gilbert.

The 24-year-old was in Tampa, Fla., yesterday for a hearing in Hillsborough County Court. According to Rick Escobar, one of Gilbert’s lawyers, Dukes previously had been ordered to pay $3,227 a month in child support for two of the couple’s three children and $3,300 a month in alimony. He owes $40,643.18, not including any attorney’s fees he is required to pay.

Dukes was found in contempt of court and must pay or turn himself in by 5 p.m. on Jan. 23.

“We filed a motion to hold him in contempt for failing to abide by a court order,” Escobar said. “It’s a pretty simple process. If you don’t abide, there’s no legal excuse. You’re going to get hammered by the court.”

Through a statement issued by a team spokesman, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said, “The Nationals have been kept abreast of Elijah Dukes’ financial situation through his advisors, agents and attorneys. When we acquired the player, we were aware that his obligations exceeded his income. Elijah is working diligently with his agents, attorneys and financial advisors in an effort to meet all of his responsibilities.”

Four women have sought Hillsborough County court help in child support cases with Dukes, and court records show Dukes has another court date March 18 in paternity cases with two women other than Gilbert.

Dukes’ agent, Scott Pucino, referred questions about the case to his attorneys, who didn’t return a message seeking comment.

If Dukes doesn’t pay or turn himself in by Jan. 23 he could be arrested. Escobar also said he and partner Carlos Ramirez are preparing for “a lot of litigation in the next two or three months” and warned that he will work to serve the Nationals with the orders Dukes hasn’t met.

He said if Dukes doesn’t fulfill the obligations, he would serve the team with an income deduction order so part of the outfielder’s salary would go to his wife. If the team didn’t comply, Escobar said, he would argue to have the club held in contempt of court as well.

“I hope it never gets to that point,” he said. “I hope it gets through to Mr. Dukes that he has to comply with court orders.”

Dukes earned $392,500 last season. A club source said since players are paid only six months a year, Dukes has little money left over for himself in the offseason after making child support payments.

The hearing is the latest episode in a long fight between Dukes and his estranged wife. In May 2007, reports surfaced that Dukes, then a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, had threatened to kill his wife and their two children. The couple had another child in August who’s not part of the child support case.

“I think she’s relieved that she’s going to get some new compensation,” Escobar said. “She’ll be able to go on with her life, live a productive life, raise the children, support the children. She hasn’t been able to do that.”

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