- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 24, 2009

Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes paid more than $40,000 in back child support and alimony to his estranged wife minutes before a Tampa, Fla., court-ordered deadline Friday, allowing him to narrowly avoid a jail sentence.

Dukes’ attorney hand-delivered a check for $40,643 to Carlos Ramirez, lawyer for NiShea Gilbert, at 4:57 p.m., the St. Petersburg Times reported on its Web site. The payment beat a 5 p.m. deadline that had been imposed by a Hillsborough County Court judge last week. Had he failed to pay, Dukes faced a 90-day jail sentence.

Ramirez did not return a message Friday but told the St. Petersburg Times, “[Dukes] met the obligation.”

The 24-year-old slugger has been embroiled in a long-standing and public legal battle with Gilbert since reports surfaced in 2007 that Dukes, then a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, threatened to kill his wife and their two children.

Dukes has been required to pay Gilbert $3,227 a month in child support and an additional $3,300 a month in alimony. When he failed to make payments in October, November and December, the court found him in contempt and ordered the full payment by Friday.

Dukes still will be required to make regular monthly payments, which could prove difficult because major league players receive paychecks only during the regular season. Dukes, who has less than two years of big league service time, made $392,500 in 2008 and stands to earn slightly more in 2009.

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