We often hear stories about inmates at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island, and other lockups, who are incarcerated for months and years waiting on a trial date. Aitabdel Salem of Queens sat at Rikers for nearly five months, when he could have easily been a free man. His bail, at the time, was only $2.
Salem, 41, was locked up at Rikers from from November 2014 to April 2015, according to the NY Daily News. He had been jailed for “attacking an NYPD cop” who apprehended him for stealing a coat from a Zara store in NYC’s Flatiron District on Nov. 21, 2014. He was held on $25,000 bail. The Daily News reports:
Although Salem didn’t know it for more than four months, he caught a lucky break when prosecutors could not get an indictment. He was ordered released on Nov. 28, 2014 on the police assault arrest.
But he still had dollar bails set on each of two minor offenses — that included tampering and mischief charges — so he could not have been freed without first paying the tiny amount.
Judges sometimes set a dollar bail on a defendant’s subsequent charges if they believe the person’s existing bail is sufficient or if the defendant is ineligible for release for another reason, like an immigration hold.
Salem puts Legal Aid Society attorney Stephen Pokart, the defender who represented him, at fault for the mix up. Salem’s new attorneys blamed Pokart for Salem’s failure to appear at his May 13, 2015, for assaulting a police officer. He had 30 days to handle the situation, but failed to and was charged with bail jumping. He was acquitted of that charge last week.