TAMPA — Former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes sat in front of a Hillsborough judge Wednesday and struggled yet again to explain why he has failed to make child support payments. This time, he broke down in tears.
Dukes became frustrated during a hearing before Judge Liz Rice, in which attorney Carlos Ramirez asked him about his finances.
He owes ex-wife NiShea Gilbert $74,000 in child support and alimony. And court records show that as of September, he owed $35,000 to Carla D. Bryant and $34,000 to Porcia Reneal Daniels, also mothers of his children.
"Jesus, I hate this," Dukes said at one point as he put his head on a table and sobbed.
Rice scolded Dukes in the hearing as he provided unsatisfactory answers to the attorney's questions.
"Mr. Dukes, we're not holding you in jail because we like to see you in an orange jumpsuit," Rice said. "All we want you to do is honor your commitment to this court and to your family."
At a hearing May 18, Dukes claimed he spent all but $1,500 of his Major League Baseball retirement account. A judge told him to use what remained to pay his child support. He did not pay and did not appear at subsequent hearings in the case.
Dukes was arrested Monday on charges of contempt of court and failure to appear.
In court Wednesday, Dukes told Rice that the reason he did not pay the $1,500 was that he loaned the money to a friend who also was struggling to pay child support. He claimed the friend — a man whom he knew only as "Fred" from Atlanta — assured him that he would pay him back within a few days but never did.
Rice ordered Dukes to be released from jail and set a new hearing for Nov. 22, at which he must bring documents detailing his finances, including transaction records showing to whom he has given money.
"You can't just throw a bunch of documents at your lawyer and say, 'You do the accounting,' " Rice said. "You do it, dear."
Dukes said during questioning that he owns nothing of value. An attorney for the Florida Department of Revenue, which is handling two of the child support cases against Dukes, asked him about a set of diamond earrings that are visible in his driver's license photo, as well as a Lexus he used to own.
Dukes said he sold the earrings and the car. He said he has no permanent address since he was released from the Washington Nationals in March and has stayed with relatives and friends.
"I live wherever I lay my head," Dukes said.
Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report.