New York Man Spends Five Months on Rikers Island, Not Knowing His Bail Was Set at Just $2

Not knowing freedom would've cost him pittance, Aitabdel Salem remained in his cell at Rikers Island

Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

A New York man spent five long months in New York’s infamous Riker’s Island prison before learning that he could free himself by posting just $2 in bail, PEOPLE confirms.

Glenn Hardy, one of two attorneys now representing 41-year-old Aitabdel Salem, tells PEOPLE his client was detained on Nov. 21, 2014, for allegedly assaulting a New York City police officer. At that time, his initial bail was set at $25,000, Hardy says.

A week later, when prosecutors were unable to secure an indictment against him, Salem was ordered released by a judge.

However, Salem still had outstanding $1 bails on two unrelated offenses – tampering and mischief.

Oftentimes, a judge will set bail at $1 for lesser charges when a defendant’s existing bail on more serious offenses is deemed sufficient.

Not knowing freedom would’ve cost him a mere pittance, Salem remained in his cell at Rikers, Hardy explains.

Now, Hardy is considering a lawsuit against the Legal Aid Society, the private, non-profit legal services firm that initially represented Salem and is known for representing indigent defendants.

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“His legal aid attorney failed to do his job, which was to notify his client of what his bail amount was,” Hardy argues.

“When somebody has a court date, their attorney has the ability to bring that defendant into court, or they can waive their client’s appearance,” Hardy adds. “In this situation, his attorney waived his appearance, but then didn’t tell him what was going on.”

Eventually, Salem got curious about his bail, and questioned a corrections officers about his status. Last April, upon learning he was being held on just $2 bail, he posted the amount for his release.

Hardy tells PEOPLE his client could conceivably pursue civil action against the Legal Aid Society, but that a decision on whether to sue remains outstanding.

“I will be discussing this possibility with my client shortly,” Hardy explains.

A statement to PEOPLE from the Legal Aid Society claims the real issue with Salem’s case is not his former attorney.

“The real issue, and one that should be of great concern to all of us, is why the DA chose to prosecute this man and waste juror time and taxpayer money on a case where they knew they had no evidence,” the statement reads. “Clearly, that is what the jury based their acquittal on. While we cannot comment on an client’s specific case there are many reasons a person is held in on a dollar bail.”

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