Aitabdel Salem, a 42-year-old Queens man, is suing the city after he spent months at Rikers Island being kept in the dark about his own court dates and his bail.
Salem, who was arrested in 2014 after he allegedly attacked an officer who was trying to detain him when he allegedly tried to steal a coast from a Zara store, is suing both the city and his Legal Aid lawyers for keeping him in the dark about his own freedom, especially after his bail was set to just $2.
Initially, his bail was set at $25,000. He was never produced in court in November on his return court date, where a judge dropped the bail in one of the two cases against him to $2. Two days later, he was again not produced in court, so he didn’t know that a judge had ordered him to be released on his own recognizance because prosecutors had failed to convene a grand jury in 144 hours, as required by law, in the second case against him.
According to the lawsuit, there was another court date in February, where he again was not produced. The lawsuit claims that his lawyer waived his appearance, and the court proceedings went on without him and without his knowledge.
“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.”
“In fact, they all ignored his unrelenting pleas for information regarding his freedom,” the suit continued.
Finally, a prison chaplain paid his bail in April of 2015, though a month later, he was accused of bail jumping because he missed a court date, which he maintained that he missed because he had not been told about a schedule change. He was acquitted of that charge in June 2016 but ultimately was convicted of felony assault and criminal tampering and will serve up to five years in federal prison.