A man spent five months on Rikers Island without being informed that his bail was only two dollars.
In a report from the New York Daily News, Aitabdel Salem was arrested back in November 2014 for allegedly attacking an officer who said he was stealing a coat. He was also placed under arrest for prior tampering and mischief charges. The judge originally set Salem’s bail at $25,000 but reduced it to a dollar on his court date. However, Salem’s legal aids failed to bring him to court so he never knew that his bail had been dropped.
A few months later in February, the second case Salem was serving time for went to court, where prosecutors were unable to make an indictment in time, resulting in the charges being dropped and Salem’s bail being reduced to a dollar again. So instead of $25,000 he now owed two dollars. Ultimately, a prison chaplain paid Salem’s bail in April 2015 and he was set free. The following month, however, he was arrested again for failing to appear at the arraignment for his original assault charge.
“You can’t do what you don’t know and if you’re a defendant in a criminal case you certainly have a right to rely upon the system [to know] what your next court date is,” Glenn Hardy, one of Salem’s new attorneys, said.
Salem’s lawyers claim that he was unaware of any court date or changes, saying the letter informing him of the date was lost in the mail and stamped as “return to sender.” He has since filed a lawsuit against both the city of New York and his Legal Aid lawyers but because of the court date confusion, he will remain jailed until further notice, with his bail now set at $30,000.