The maddening story of a Queens man who spent nearly five months at Rikers Island while unaware of his dollar bail status has entered its next logical chapter: a lawsuit. Aitabdel Salem is suing the city and his Legal Aid attorneys for failing to inform of his reduced bail, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.
"Mr. Salem implored corrections officers within [Rikers Island] to tell him what happened on his respective court dates," the lawsuit states. "None of the corrections officers told him that he was ordered to be free on Nov. 28, 2014, because his bail had been reduced [to] $1." Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges Salem's "unrelenting pleas" for more information on his potential freedom were ignored.
Back in 2014, Salem was arrested after being accused of attacking a New York cop who was attempting to arrest him during an alleged coat theft incident. Initially, Salem's bail was set at $25,000. When prosecutors were unable to get an indictment on the cop attack accusations, Salem was ordered to be released. A judge lowered his bail on two other charges (including tampering and mischief) to $1, but Salem says he didn't learn of this until months later.
In June of last year, Salem's story made headlines nationwide when he was acquitted for bail-jumping after missing a post-release court date. Allegedly, Salem had not been informed of the scheduling change.
According to the Daily News, Salem was convicted in August of criminal tampering and felony assault and is currently serving four-and-a-third to five years in state prison.
Rikers, it's worth noting, ranks as of the "worst prisons" in the country. In June, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released details of his plan to close the Rikers Island facility within 10 years. "It would be much simpler for us to tell people what they want to hear and say we can achieve this goal quickly and easily, but we won't do that," de Blasio said. "Instead, we are realistic."