Man spends five months on Rikers Island without knowing his bail was $2

Aitabdel Salem, 42, spent five months at Rikers Island before being informed that his bail was only $2 and he could have left as early as four months prior, the New York Daily News reported. Now he is filing a lawsuit against both the city and his Legal Aid lawyers.

On Nov. 21, 2014, police arrested Salem 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 his bail for both cases at $25,000 but dropped the initial case to a dollar on Nov. 26, his court date. The judge also ordered him to be set free on Nov. 28. His legal aids, however, failed to produce him in court leaving Salem unaware of the change.

"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."

A look inside Rikers Island:

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UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Aerial view of Rikers Island. (Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A corrections officers walks through the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
A view from a jail cell in the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
A view from the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit at the Rikers Island Correctional facility in New York March 12, 2015. New York City is proposing to reduce violence among inmates at its troubled Rikers Island jail by limiting visitors, adding security cameras and separating rival gangs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)
QUEENS, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 25: A view of Rikers Island, New York City's jail, is seen from a flight leaving LaGuardia Airport on Christmas morning, December 25, 2016. Most New Yorkers are denied access to the island, but frequently see it when leaving or arriving on flights from adjacent LaGuardia Airport in Queens. (Photo by ANdrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Russell Hernandez, who got $1 million in a settlement, hold letter from Bronx DA thanking him for 'cooperation.' Hernandez, was held at Rikers Island for more than two years without ever being charged with a crime in order to force him to testify against two gang members who had robbed him. (Photo By: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Russell Hernandez, who got $1 million in a settlement, hold letter from Bronx DA thanking him for 'cooperation.' Hernandez, was held at Rikers Island for more than two years without ever being charged with a crime in order to force him to testify against two gang members who had robbed him. (Photo By: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 24: Inmates at Rikers Island gather in a circle for a morning meeting on pride and self-esteem. Inmates, who refer to each other as 'teammates,' are in the High Impact Incarceration Program (HIIP)., (Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex where IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in New York on May 17, 2011. The grand jury deciding whether or not to send IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to trial has until May 20th to decide. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid, remains incarcerated without bail because a judge deemed him liable to attempt escape to France, which does not extradite citizens to the United States. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 30: Aerial view of Rikers Island prison. (Photo by Charles Payne/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
An air view of Rikers Island, New York City's main jail complex and the name of the 413.17-acre island on which it sits, in the East River between Queens and the mainland Bronx in New York City, New York, 1955. (Photo by Flying Camera/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 22: Frank Costello (c.) is freed from Rikers Island and with him are his attorneys on his left Morris Shilensky, and his right is Edward Williams. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 22: Frank Costello flanked by police detective is freed from Rikers Island. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 25: Prisoners sit handcuffed on ground along hallway after riots at Rikers Island. (Photo by Leonard Jackson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 04: Rikers Island detainees drill in the courtyard of new 'Sprungs' area where 16 to 18-year-old detainees live and attend school while awaiting trials and sentencing. (Photo by Nicole Bengiveno/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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The second case for which he was serving time went to court a few months later on Feb. 11. After prosecutors were unable to make an indictment in the required amount of time, the charges were dropped and the judge reduced bail to a dollar. Again, Salem failed to be produced and was unaware that now instead of $25,000 he only owed $2.

A prison chaplain finally paid the bail on April 15, 2015, and Salem was set free. The following month however, he was arrested again for failing to appear at the arraignment for his original assault charge.

His lawyers claim Salem was again 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."

"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 his new attorneys, said.

Salem is now serving four-and-a-third to five years in state prison for felony assault and criminal tampering charges. According to the Centre Daily Times, his bail is now set at $30,000.

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