Aitabdel Salem (42), a Queens New York native, spent five months in jail on a theft and resisting arrest charges without knowing his bail was just $1 (one dollar). Salem brings suit against the city as well as his Legal Aid lawyers for not informing him.
Salem was arrested on November 21, 2014. Police alleged that he attacked a NYPD officer who was attempting to arrest him after he was accused of stealing a coat at a Zara store. After Salem’s arrest his initial bail was set at $25,000.
However, on November 26, just a few days later the judge dropped the bail on the theft charge to $1. Salem was unaware of this reduction because the jail did not produce him in court (bring him to the courthouse) on that date. Nevertheless, the judge ordered Salem released on his own recognizance two days later. This is because prosecutors did not convene a grand jury within 144 hours as required by New York state law.
Months later Salem had another court date on February 11. Again, Salem was not produced by the jail before the judge. Similarly, Salem’s attorney waived his appearance and allowed the court date to proceed without him. Therefore he was never informed on any of these court dates that one of the charges was dropped and that bail was set at $1 on the theft charge.
The lawsuit alleges that; “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. In fact, according to NY Post, Salem alleges that his pleas for information was purposely ignored by all parties involved.
Finally, On April 15, 2015 (five months after his initial arrest) a prison pastor paid Salem’s $1 bail. Ultimately when Salem was informed of the $1 bail he initiated a lawsuit against the city as well as his court appointed attorneys.
The concept of “sovereign immunity” prevents the city and state of New York from being sued unless they consent. Consent is easily obtained. The city of New York requires that an individual file a Notice of Claim within one year and 90 days of the alleged incident. Once the Notice of Claim is filed, the city will request a hearing in which the accident victim will be required to testify under oath.
Salem was ultimately convicted on separate felony assault and criminal tampering charges in August 2016. He is currently serving four and a third to five years in New York state prison. Therefore, Salem will have to fight this suit behind bars.