A New York man who spent several agonizing months behind bars at the notorious Rikers Island correctional facility is filing a lawsuit against both the city and his own lawyers for failing to inform him that his bail was only $1.
42-year-old Aitabdel Salem of Queens originally found himself in hot water back in November 2014 when he attacked an NYPD officer who was trying to arrest him for stealing clothes from a Zara store in the Flatiron district, court documents revealed.
Salem’s bail was originally set at $25,000. A few days later, when Salem was set to return to court, his lawyers never actually bothered to have the accused show up before the judge. That’s when his bail dropped down to just $1 – but he never heard about it.
Two days later, Salem was absent from court once again when a judge ordered him released on his own recognizance in one of the cases against him, noting that prosecutors had not convened a grand jury within 144 hours. Doing so is required by law in cases where a felony suspect is held on bail.
Then in February, Salem had another court date, but to nobody’s surprise, he was not produced before a judge. At each court date, his Legal Aid lawyer decided to waive his appearance and allow the case to go on without Salem, the New York Daily News reported.
“Mr. Salem implored corrections officers within (Rikers Island) to tell him what happened on his respective court dates. None of the corrections officers told him that he was ordered to be free on Nov. 28, 2014, because his bail had been reduced from $25,000 to $1,” the lawsuit contends.
“In fact, they all ignored his unrelenting pleas for information regarding his freedom,” the suit continues. Salem was finally freed in April after a prison chaplain paid his measly bail.
Unfortunately for Salem, his freedom was short-lived: he was convicted on felony assault and criminal tampering charges last year and was sentenced to five years behind bars.