Tampa Bay rookie outfielder Elijah Dukes has been barred from contacting his wife for a year, and a judge also offered to order Dukes to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he's allowed to see the couple's two young children.
Following Wednesday's ruling by Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Levens in Plant City, Fla., NiShea Gilbert said she has filed for divorce from Dukes, who allegedly made death threats against her and the children.
"The next step is to do what's right for the kids, finalize the divorce and move on from this and close this chapter in my life," Gilbert said, according to the St. Petersburg Times, outside of court.
I feel a little more comfortable," Gilbert said. "But I'm sure I'll still have some rough nights."
Dukes agreed to the terms of the protective order, the Times reported, citing Dukes' attorney Tamara Dudley. Dukes did not attend the hearing.
"It's a personal matter, and he is not going to comment further on personal matters," Devil Rays team spokesman Chris Costello told the newspaper.
The protective order is the second granted for Gilbert by a judge; she received the first in October 2004. According to the Times, Gilbert and Dukes have been married since February 2006; Gilbert first filed for divorce in May of that year but voluntarily dismissed the petition the following month.
Gilbert told the Times that Dukes had contacted her during the time he was first barred from doing so.
"He still gave me a hard time," Gilbert told the newspaper. "It really is just a piece of paper. Hopefully, this time he'll take it seriously. If he cares about his career, I think he will."
In a statement issued Tuesday by the team, the 22-year-old rookie apologized for causing a "distraction" for his family, teammates, fans and the organization. Dukes was held out of two games last week after the Times reported he left a threatening message on Gilbert's cell phone on April 30 and also sent a text message to her that included a picture of a gun.
This communication followed an April 30 incident at Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, Fla., where Gilbert teaches. According to the account Gilbert gave to the Times, Dukes threatened her at her classroom while the students were at lunch. According to court records, Dukes was escorted off school property and warned not to return or face arrest.
Gilbert filed for the protective order on May 17. Under the order, the newspaper said Dukes cannot contact Gilbert or come within 500 feet of her, her home and her workplace. If he violates it, Gilbert can contact police and have Dukes arrested.
During Wednesday's hearing, Levens, concerned about Dukes' mental health, offered to order a psychiatric evaluation, preferably through the team. Both lawyers agreed, but because Dukes is on Tampa Bay's 40-man roster, the Times said the team would first need to clear hurdles with Major League Baseball and the players' union in order to facilitate the evaluation.
Dukes, the Rays' starting center fielder and lately its leadoff hitter, hit his 10th home run of the season Wednesday in Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory over Detroit. Manager Joe Maddon praised Dukes for issuing a public apology this week and said he believes Dukes has handled the situation well.
"I think truly this is the time to move forward," Maddon said, according to the Times. "And now the ball and everything is in his court to put all of this behind himself."