Exclusive Photos: Bronx-Born Navy Veteran Held in Squalid Kuwaiti Prison; Supporters Call on U.S to Intervene

By Kevin Deutsch and Sasha Gonzales
kdeutsch@bronxjusticenews.com, sgonzales@bronxjusticenews.com

The Bronx-born Navy veteran sentenced to 25 years imprisonment on marijuana charges in Kuwait—after what family and friends said was a police frame-up and show trial—is being held in a filthy cell in the country’s main men’s prison, according to exclusive photos obtained by Bronx Justice News.

Nicodemus Acosta, 30, a Computer System Support Specialist with Alaska-based Vista Defense Technologies, is one of multiple Americans being held in Kuwait after what his family and friends said were convictions secured with false evidence and testimony.

The nation’s judicial system and detention policies have repeatedly come under scrutiny for what critics call violations of international law.

Acosta had been working in Kuwait for almost four years when the national police arrested him in August on charges of drug use and distribution, after allegedly seizing about 1.75 pounds of marijuana authorities said belonged to him and several associates.

Following what advocates described as a deeply flawed trial, with little transparency or opportunity for Acosta to defend himself, he was handed what Kuwaiti courts consider a life sentence: 25 years imprisonment with hard labor.

The room Acosta is being held it at the Kuwaiti men’s prison appears to be filled with filth, rotting food, and soiled blankets and clothes, its walls lined with dirty newspapers.

A moldy sink, in-floor toilet, and tiles appear in several photos, capturing what appears to be a washing area and bathroom.

“The conditions are very poor,” said Acosta’s friend Sarah Floyd, who has been in occasional contact with him. She was detained with him in Kuwait before being released, she said.

Other Americans were also charged in the drug case, police records show.

Almost immediately after his arrest, authorities began torturing Acosta, Floyd said.

“When we arrived to the police station, they took Nicodemus and tied his hands and feet to a large stick, similar to a rotisserie chicken,” Floyd said. “They proceeded to beat him while also interrogating him. This led to Mr. Acosta losing feeling in his hands and wrists for four months as well as severe bruising.”

Acosta was eventually taken to a cell with many other men, where he waited ten days to be transferred to the public prison. During the wait, he was provided little food and water, Floyd said.

Acosta had been implicated by a man in police custody who fingered him as a drug dealer—an allegation his family and friends say is false.

The ex-service member, who is divorced with a 7-year-old son, joined the Navy in 2008 and served on active duty for 5 years, according to a biography provided by a Navy spokesperson.

During that time, he was stationed overseas in locations including Spain and Bahrain. He continued his military career for several years with the Navy reserves, according to the Navy.

“The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas,” a State Department official said Thursday in confirming that the U.S. government was aware of Acosta’s detention.
The official did not say what actions the government planned to take on the veteran’s behalf.
Among the awards and decorations Acosta received during his Navy career, according to the military branch:
Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist designation; the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal; the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; the Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; and the Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon, with sharpshooter designation.
Acosta is appealing his conviction, and is next scheduled to go before a judge July 2.
About Kevin Deutsch 122 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, incarceration, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, and the New York Post, among other publications. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.