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OF Dukes Faces Jail If Child Support Remains Unpaid

Yesterday, Elijah Dukes was in a Tampa courtroom. In just more than a week, if he fails to pay $40,643 in overdue child support payments, he could wind up in jail.

Dukes, 24, an outfielder for the Washington Nationals, has until 5 p.m. on Jan. 23 to pay the child support and alimony that he owes his estranged wife, NiShea Dukes. Failure to do so will land Dukes in jail for 90 days, according to a court order from Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Mark R. Wolfe, signed today.

Dukes -- who has three children with NiShea -- was ordered in April 2008 to pay his ex-wife $6,527 per month in child support and alimony. According to The Tampa Tribune, citing court documents, NiShea received a payment of $16,685 on April 11. Since then, she has gotten only $200.

The Nationals issued a statement from General Manager Jim Bowden saying that the team has been "kept abreast of Elijah Dukes' financial situation through his advisors, agents and attorneys."

"When we acquired the player," the statement continued, "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."

In 2008, Dukes earned $392,500.

Reached by phone tonight, NiShea Dukes said that she believes Dukes will now make the payments.

"I guess it's just growing pains with him," she said. "He will eventually get it. I think he will eventually get it. He's communicating a little better. But with him, everything is always tedious him. It just takes him a little longer than for a normal person...

"I think the team has too much invested in him to let him go to jail. We'll just see what happens tomorrow, Friday or next week. I don't think he'll end up in prison, but the judge was adamant that if he doesn't pay, that is what will happen."

When the Nationals acquired Dukes on Dec. 3, 2007, from Tampa Bay, the team that drafted him, they knew they were taking a risk. Dukes had talent; Washington saw that much last year, when he smacked 13 home runs, batted .264, and led all regulars in slugging percentage. But Dukes was also known for a history of legal troubles. He has been arrested three times for battery, once for assault. And in the spring of 2007, as Nishea Dukes filed for divorce, Dukes left her a voice mail that threatened her life and the lives of her children.

NOTE -- The Nationals today also came to terms on a minor league deal with 31-year-old right-handed pitcher Josh Towers, who has spent seven years in the big leagues, most recently in 2007. Last season, Towers pitched at Class AAA Colorado Springs. He pitched in 31 games, starting 15 of them, and went 6-7 with a 6.27 ERA. Earlier, Towers had pitched in the majors for Baltimore and Toronto. His lifetime mark: a 45-55 record and a 4.96 ERA in 137 games (112 starts).

By Chico Harlan  |  January 14, 2009; 10:44 PM ET
 
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Comments

I was hoping logging in now would reveal some crazy trade a la Alfonso. Sigh.

C'mon Elijah, you were doing so well!

Does anyone know how child support payments are assigned? Is there a value per child? Is it by age or economic vitality of the mom or dad? I ask because that seems like a large sum, even if it is the sum of several months.

Posted by: NattyDelite | January 14, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least it clears some of the log jam in the outfield...

Posted by: soundbloke | January 14, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be worried if I were any of you. He's not stupid enough to go to jail over child support.

Posted by: iishoagie07 | January 14, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure it is based on how much loot he makes, but either way pay this elijah, please, it's good on all fronts.

Posted by: bford1kb | January 15, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Can't we tap some of the bailout funds for this?

Posted by: Ted_Striker | January 15, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

I like Bowden's quote, that they knew the risks when they acquired the player. Yes, they did and they should have anticipated something like this might happen. I doubt Dukes is going to prision, either he or the team will find a way to pay the child support. But this is hardly good news and I'll repeat myself. I suspect we're going to read more stories like this, as long as Dukes is with this team. As much as people are impressed by the talent, to me he's another M. Bradly or J. Guillen. More trouble than he's worth and bound to do something stupid where the team will have to dump him one day.

Posted by: grforbes | January 15, 2009 5:05 AM | Report abuse

Anyone making his money should go to jail for not paying child support. To not pay child support, you have to be a real low-life.

Posted by: Pete433 | January 15, 2009 6:38 AM | Report abuse

Anyone making his money should go to jail for not paying child support. To not pay child support, you have to be a real low-life.

Posted by: Pete433

If it was in season and he wasn't paying I would agree with your statement. But because it is off-season , it may be a little too harsh and too much of a generalization.

Dukes hasn't had a pay check since Oct and won't get another one till April. It maybe that he wants to pay but has come up short, because he hasn't yet figured out how to budget his money for the off season.

Last winter he worked on attitude and seemed to make some progress. Now they may be working on how to budget and be more financially responsible.

He was an immature kid that appears to have started to mature. I currently don't see this a a step back, but as another step in the learning/maturing process. Same problem next year - then hang him.

Posted by: kgwcoach | January 15, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Pete's sentiments are the rub. The PR hit will be how someone making nearly $400k has paid only $200 since April 08 for his kids wellfare. Dukes' "agents, attorneys and financial advisors" should never have let this go to court. Maybe Ted will give him an advance.

Posted by: pwilly | January 15, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

KGW, I think you're giving 'Lijah's team way too much credit. It's not like Dukes all of a sudden lost his job in an unforeseen way and therefore doesn't have a paycheck. His lawyers should have accounted for that in the settlement with Mrs. Dukes' lawyers and adjusted the payments to account for the seasonality. This just seems like shoddy work by the people Elijah has around him - his child support payments should just be taken right off the top by his folks and sent, so that he never has to deal with it, and he certainly shouldn't ever have to appear in court over it. The "agents, attorneys, and financial advisors" should have handled this quietly and appropriately.

I'm actually a bit more interested in the Towers signing - I presume, Cheeks, that "came to terms" means signed to a minor-league deal? In that case, and apropos of Sheinin's discussion about Wolf vs. Martis/Balester, I'm really in favor of it - I'd rather have Josh Towers' career ERA+ of 91 on a minor league deal than $7m of guaranteed Randy Wolf. Neither one may outperform Martis and Balester, but Towers at least saves you the $, and acts as an insurance policy. If Martis or Balester start in MLB and really struggle, Towers could at least be counted on to give you replacement-level innings.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | January 15, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

It looks like Duke's ex is owed approximately $84,000 per year. For Dukes that represents something like $137,000 pre tax or 35% of his gross salary. With all the lawyers he uses, I can see him spending $100,000 per year or $167,000 pre tax. That would suggest he has something like $93,000 pre tax to live on. I am assuming he is not the most astute in budget planning so I can see him having some difficulty.

The only people making money on this are the lawyers and his lovely ex who I can bet has no plans of ever working or getting married. I am assuming she is a high school drop out. The people who suffer are the kids. They did not ask to have a-holes for parents but every year the same thing happens. I do not know how many times a year this same story gets written.

Posted by: mjames0 | January 15, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

mjames, if I recall correctly, Dukes' ex is an elementary school teacher, so I would not think that she is a high school dropout. I would agree that it's the kids who suffer in such situations.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | January 15, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Dukes is a scumbag. No one should make the mistake of defending him in this situation. He helped bring the child into the world and he needs to help the child live in this world. No excuses.

Posted by: logan9 | January 15, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals need to provide emotional and structural support for Elijah, but cannot provide full financial support even if they want to. Elijah will work this out because he has a guaranteed contract that would provide the necessary leverage to arrange financing.

As to the requirement for $6527 per per month, that equates to $75,000+ per year. Or roughly 20% of his total pre-tax income (and maybe 30%+ of after tax income). He also has two other children. So while he has made huge consequential mistakes in his life to get to this point, it does seem plausible that there are real cash flow issues.

That said, it seems Dukes has not finished paying for previous mistakes and will continue to recieve a lot of attention, as well as a lot of financial pressure. Perhaps, he can channel that into a breakout year that affords him the opportunity to share even more money with all his children and their mothers. I continue to have sympathy for the man because of his tortured adolescence. When your father goes to prison for murdering your mother's crack dealer, it seems reasonable that you develop anger management issues and have difficulty coping. In some respects, he's done remarkably well. He needs to do better, but I doubt many of us posting here at National's Journal have had it worse than Elijah.

(Disclaimer: Elijah created this mess, and he needs to fix it. There are no valid excuses for battery, assault, threats, etc.... So while I have sympathy for him, he is still accountable for his actions.)

Posted by: natbisquit | January 15, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Mjames why would you assume she's a high school dropout? Come on. Young, Black and 3 kids = dropout? Whatever you believe, let's try not to promote and/or adhere to stereotypes here. In fact, as Natsfan said she is a teacher and her comments suggests someone who has some command of the English language and some level of intelligence. Please exercise the same when you comment.

The true tragedy is the plight of the kids, and the fact that there are an awful lot of men, yes even non-athletes, who are not meeting their parental obligations vis a vis child support. I hope that's a policy Obama and friends address.

Go Nats.

Posted by: jfromPG | January 15, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Also, it's my understanding that he has 5 kids total. If so, chances are high he supports them too.

It's also possible he has his own a legal beef (visitation? custody?) with his ex that he was waiting to resolve before continuing to pay.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 15, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Great, another low-budget scrap heap minor-league spring training "invitee" added to the Nats cavalcade of "stars" and one of their legitimate pieces to the 2010 rebirth facing the prospects of 90 days jail-time. You just can't make this stuff up.

Good thing the Nats don't get much local broadcast media attention. Imagine if the Dukes was wearing B&G, it would be the #1 lead-in story on every newscast and repeated every 10 minutes from the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center at WTOP.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | January 15, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I defended Dukes vehemently when they brought him to D.C., and suggested everyone give him the benefit of the doubt until he screwed up again. Consequently, I'm not sure how I feel about this news. As others have noted, the amount he owes for child support probably represents about 1/3 of his take-home pay. He presumably has other child support orders for his other kids. I'm going to guess he also has other "debts" from his days in Florida, some of which he may not be able to put in front of the Court when explaining how much he owes.

For Bowden to say they knew his obligations exceeded his income suggests that it is more than just the child support payment. Until we have a full picture of his finances, and can understand how much he came into last season oweing as well as what his monthly payments are, I'm still not sure we can judge the man. Now, if he's rolling to the Park in a 2009 BMW or some such, then I say yeah, he's a jerk who doesn't care about his kids. But this still could all be growing pains of his trying to turn his life around, like his ex-wife says. If anyone is allowed to be bitter it is her, and it sounds like she's fairly measured about the whole thing. Maybe we should be too.

Posted by: wahoo2x | January 15, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Ever since I heard his father was in prison for murder when Dukes was 12, I've had a lot of sympathy for him. That's a pretty crappy start in life.

20% of pre-tax is very steep. Easy to say $392k is tons of money but take away the 20% for child support, whatever his lawyers, agent, et al get, add in the strange timing of how they are paid and it's a lot to deal with.

I'm totally confident the Nats will arrange a loan for him if he can't come up with the cash. He's not going to jail.

Key facts - Elijah needs $40k, Ted has $1b, Elijah slugged .478 last year. This will work out.

He needs a break out year and then can hope for a long-term deal to relive some of this pressure.

Posted by: Avar | January 15, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The Nats should just garnish Elijah's wages and send the child support directly to his ex-wife. That is what would happen if he had a job just about anywhere else and did not pay child support. I will bet you double what Elijah owes in child support that his lawyers have been paid in full.

Posted by: brewer1 | January 15, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Josh Towers

lol

Posted by: Brue | January 15, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I think this is a non-story from a baseball perspective. Lots of very good men - for one reason or another - don't pay child support and get threatened like this.

Nothing will come of it.

And this is no strike against Dukes from the Nationals; well, it shouldn't be. This was old news when the team traded for him.

Dukes has made great strides in the past year. To be sure, he's had some hiccups along the way, but I'll bet that those of us who are in our late 30's and older can look back on our lives and see that 1) we were jerks when we were young and 2) it took years of repeating our mistakes to mature and become better people.

That's how it's been happening for 6,000 years and it's not going to change suddenly today because Elijah Dukes needs it to.

Posted by: rushfari | January 15, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Wow, just reading these this morning and have to say that some of the crap spewed was borderline racist.

I don't know anything about custody or alimony proceedings nor an appropriate level of monthly payments, but it seems logical that a judge would try to punish Elijah considering the threats he made towards his ex and the children. Regardless, he can afford it and should have been paying all along. And the Nats and his lawyers and advisors should have been on this from day 1. Wasn't there supposed to be a zero tolerance policy?

Personally, I would be very disappointed if the Nats bailed him out of this one. Somewhere in the past 4 years, this organization has turned into one that overlooks off-field and character issues, so long as the player has on-field potential. It made us feel good with Dimitri when he turned himself around, and we were the only team who gave him a shot, kudos. But it threatens to cement itself as the team culture, ala the Cincinatti Bengals. And it's not just the players, it's the GM and his DUI. It's trading for players who have had trouble (Dukes and Olsen). And signing guys like Lo Duca (I'm still think, though no proof, that we signed him despite rumors that he would appear in the Mitchell report. It was a CYA. We wanted to sign him, but how could we do it after the report??? So sign him and then say we didn't know about the report).

Posted by: jctichen | January 15, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

If Elijah would stop taking care of other women's children. He would have the money to take care of his own flesh and blood. He spends his money on strippers and his mistress Shawny Dubose and her children so that's why he doesn't have any money. Dont show no pity for him. He has chosen to live this life when he had all these illegitimate children. He has to man up and take care of his kids.

And his wife is a well educated school teacher that is going back to school to get her doctorate so she is not a dropout by no means. Now on the other hand, his other kid's mothers are dropouts and were waiting for a payday in court.

No man that makes this type of money should have to be forced by the court system to take care of their kids.

Posted by: nd62 | January 16, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

For someone who is allegedly, a well-educated woman, she sure doesn't have very smart friends. Why would anyone disparage another woman and her children without the benefit of knowing if what they are saying is true.

It sounds as if Mr. Dukes is trying to become the man he is intended to be. I have read a few articles about his background and the allegations, innuendos, and down-right foolishness that seems to be following him since he has become a professional baseball player.

It seems to me that if his estranged wife was doing what she was doing from a place of "my kids" first, then she would not play out her real life situations in the media. These children will be able to read a newspaper one day and does she honestly think they will respect her for airing family dirt to the press.

Use your attorneys to work out the child support issues. Why put all your business on front street for people to judge you? Elijah Dukes is not the first athlete or man to be behind on child support and he won't be the last.

My suggestion to his estranged wife is try to make this transition as easy as possible for your children. Don't dog their father out to them, don't give information to the press, and pray. At the end of the day, for real, no one out here really gives a damn because it does not affect them.

Use your education for good and not evil!!

Posted by: fla32 | January 18, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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