By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes had his probation stemming from a misdemeanor marijuana charge ended on Thursday after a judge took into account 25 hours of community service Dukes performed at a Tampa zoo last week, according to a court official and Dukes's attorney.
Thus, Dukes, who has been on the disabled list since Opening Night with a strained right hamstring, has no legal matters pending against him for the first time since he became a National after a December trade with Tampa Bay, his hometown team. The Nationals said Dukes would begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Potomac today.
"The team's got him now," said Grady Irvin Jr., Dukes's attorney, in a phone interview yesterday. "There's nothing hanging over his head."
Dukes had a hearing Thursday morning in Hillsborough County Court in which prosecutors alleged he had violated his probation by not keeping in touch with his probation officer, as mandated by terms of the probation, and not submitting to drug testing. Dukes's team, however, was able to show that Dukes had, in fact, met terms of the probation. If they hadn't, Irvin said, Dukes would have been imprisoned, and the Nationals may very well have released him.
Dukes worked cleaning cages at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, a community service that team officials and Irvin arranged because they wanted Dukes to experience manual labor.
"We wanted him to not sit at a park and do nothing, shoot basketball or something just to kill time," Irvin said. "We thought it was important for him to realize what he could do one day, performing janitorial duties, fixing fences or cleaning out cages."
Through team officials, Dukes declined to comment on the matter. The club is trying to employ a policy in which one of five specific Nationals officials must be present when Dukes speaks with any member of the media.Lo Duca Hits
Catcher Paul Lo Duca hit in the batting cage yesterday, further testing his bruised right hand that has him on the disabled list. "Everything's getting better," Lo Duca said .