Outfielder Dukes May Face Jail Time For His Legal Fees

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2009

PHILADELPHIA, May 29 -- Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes will spend the next several days with Class AA Harrisburg, trying to rehabilitate his left hamstring injury. In the meantime, he must deal with another problem.

Hillsborough (Fla.) Circuit Court Judge Mark Wolfe on Friday ordered that Dukes, 24, must pay $39,767 in outstanding legal fees for his estranged wife's attorneys. If he doesn't make the payment by June 5 at 5 p.m., he could face 90 days in jail.

Dukes did not attend today's hearing, which came after attorneys for NiShea Dukes filed a motion for civil contempt, a means to claim unpaid fees. Dukes, with a history of legal trouble, faced a similarly sized debt -- and a similar threat for jail time -- in January. Then, however, he was responsible for some $40,000 in unpaid child support and alimony payments. Dukes avoided jail by making the payments.

"He waited last time until the very last second to make the payment, and I'm sure this time will be no different," said Rick Escobar, an attorney who represents NiShea Dukes.

Asked on Friday if the Nationals were aware of Dukes's legal difficulties, acting general manager Mike Rizzo declined to comment.

Dukes's attorney, Grady Irvin, said his client would make the payment and avoid jail time.

The Nationals, who are paying Dukes $411,500 this season, currently deduct a monthly sum from his salary and allocate it for child support. NiShea Dukes has three children with Elijah.

This year, Dukes is hitting .277 (31 for 112) with four home runs and 24 RBI. He has been on the disabled list since May 20 because of his hamstring injury.

"Listen, Elijah is having a pretty good season," Irvin said. "He is doing well. He is current on his child support. His wife, NiShea, will go to any length to smear him. She won't even grant a divorce. Elijah has been trying to get a divorce. All this is over attorney's fees. This is not child support. If Elijah Dukes isn't paying child support, it's a different story."

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