Sat in Rik­ers for $1

Did 5 mos., not told bail was cut, but law­suit tossed

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY STEPHEN REX BROWN

He was left to lan­guish on Rik­ers Is­land for five months with­out be­ing told his bail was only a dol­lar – but there’s no one to blame.

A judge has tossed a law­suit filed by a Queens man who alleges the city vi­o­lated his con­sti­tu­tional rights through the un­nec­es­sary time in jail, rul­ing that the de­ba­cle was not “out­ra­geous.”

Aitab­del­lah Salem’s or­deal re­vealed a dis­as­trous fail­ure in court bu­reau­cracy. He was ar­rested for shoplift­ing and as­sault fol­low­ing a strug­gle with a cop on Nov. 21, 2014. At the time of his ar­raign­ment, he was fac­ing a pre­vi­ous as­sault charge and a judge slapped him with $50,000 bail. Less than a week later, his bail was re­duced to $1 dur­ing a hear­ing he didn’t at­tend. He missed a to­tal of four hear­ings re­gard­ing his case.

The pub­lic de­fend­ers who waived his ap­pear­ances never gave him up­dates, and jail staff did not fol­low or­ders to bring him to court, Salem charges. He didn’t learn he could have bought his free­dom for less than the price of a cup of cof­fee un­til April 2015.

Nev­er­the­less, Salem’s stay at the Anna M. Kross Cen­ter on Rik­ers wasn’t egre­gious enough to sus­tain his law­suit for vi­o­la­tions of his due­pro­cess rights, Man­hat­tan Fed­eral Court Judge John Koeltl wrote.

“Fail­ure to pro­duce Salem in court and fail­ure to in­form Salem that his bail had been re­duced may amount to neg­li­gence, but in to­tal, his de­ten­tion un­der these cir­cum­stances does not meet the stan­dard re­quired to be con­sid­ered out­ra­geous,” Koeltl wrote.

Salem, 43, is serv­ing five years in prison for sec­ond­de­gree as­sault and petty lar­ceny for shoplift­ing at a Zara store in the Flat­iron dis­trict. That sen­tence weighed heav­ily in Koeltl’s de­ci­sion.

“Salem has not challenged the va­lid­ity of his con­vic­tions,” Koeltl wrote in a rul­ing re­leased Wed­nes­day. “The de­fen­dants were jus­ti­fied in hold­ing Salem un­til bail was paid.”

Salem’s at­tor­ney, Wel­ton Wisham, was out­raged.

“I just can’t be­lieve you can hold a guy for $1 bail!” he said. “But ac­cord­ing to this judge, it’s OK!”

On April 15, 2015 — af­ter 138 days on Rik­ers — Salem was freed on bail. A cor­rec­tion of­fi­cer told him a jail chaplain — who never met Salem but heard about his case — paid his bail.

Salem was con­victed on Aug. 9, 2016, his time served at Rik­ers will be ap­plied to his prison time as a credit.

The city Law Depart­ment de­clined to com­ment. Koeltl gave Wisham un­til next month to file an amended com­plaint to ad­dress le­gal is­sues in the suit.

The at­tor­ney said he hadn’t yet bro­ken the news of the court de­feat to Salem.

“I don’t know if the sys­tem is racist. I don’t know what to say,” Wisham said. “How can he pay the bail if he didn’t know about it?”


Aitab­del­lah Salem was held for five months at Rik­ers Is­land, but wasn’t told his bail had been re­duced to $1. He sued, but judge ruled over­sight was neg­li­gent, “not out­ra­geous.”

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