|Judge John Koeltl
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
Sat in Rikers for $1
Now he wants the city and his lawyers to pay.
A Queens man who languished at Rikers Island for five months without knowing his bail was just $1 is suing the city and his Legal Aid lawyers for keeping him in the dark.
Aitabdel Salem, 42, was arrested on Nov. 21, 2014, on charges he attacked an NYPD officer trying to collar him after he allegedly stole a coat at a Zara store in the Flatiron district, according to court documents.
His bail was initially set at $25,000 in that case and in a second case the next day.
On Nov. 26, his return court date, he was never produced in court, and a judge dropped the bail in one of those cases to a buck.
Two days later, he was again not produced in court. A judge ordered him released on his own recognizance in the second case because prosecutors hadn't convened a grand jury within 144 hours, as is required by law if a felony suspect is held on bail, according to the lawsuit.
Salem had another court date on Feb. 11, and again, he wasn't produced before a judge, the lawsuit claimed.
At each court date after his arraignment, his lawyer waived his appearance and allowed the proceeding to go on without him, the lawsuit alleges.
"Mr. Salem implored corrections officers within (Rikers Island) to tell him what happened on his respective court dates," the lawsuit alleges. "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 to $1.
"In fact, they all ignored his unrelenting pleas for information regarding his freedom," the lawsuit alleges.
A prison chaplain ultimately paid his bail on April 15, 2015.
The Daily News first broke Salem's story in June 2016, after he was acquitted on bail-jumping charges. He missed a court date about a month after his release because he hadn't been told of a scheduling change, according to the lawsuit.
Salem was ultimately convicted on felony assault and criminal tampering charges in August, and is serving four and a third to five years in state prison.