A Queens man spent nearly five months inside the notorious Rikers Island jail complex while completely unaware his bail was just $2. Aitabdel Salem was stuck inside Rikers from Nov. 2014 to April 2015, the New York Daily News reports. Salem, 41, is now blaming his former lawyer Stephen Pokart.
“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 what your next court date is,” Theodore Goldbergh, who along with fellow attorney Glenn Hardy is now representing Salem, argued during his summation last week.
Salem was first jailed on $25,000 bail for allegedly attacking an NYPD officer who was attempting to arrest him for stealing from a Zara shop in 2014, though—without Salem’s knowledge—he was ultimately ordered to be released after prosecutors didn’t land an indictment.
Salem, 41, was still stuck with dollar bails on two minor tampering and mischief charges, meaning a quick payment of $2 would have sent him home. However, Salem argues, Pokart never informed him of this development. As a result, Salem and his attorneys argue, he missed a scheduled arraignment on May 13 of last year and was charged with bail jumping.
According to Hardy, his client was “shocked and dismayed and frustrated” knowing he could have avoided this headache if he had simply received proper communication. Hardy added that his client’s case had been “unconscionably mishandled,” reasserting that Salem never received word of his $2 path to freedom. Salem was acquitted of bail jumping last week but remains in custody due to his increased bail in the theft case, which is now $30,000.