The Sad Tale of USN Lt. Alkonis in Japan 

Lt Alkonis

The family of U.S. Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis has been rallying outside of the White House this past week seeking to bring attention to the unjust case in hopes of gaining his release from a Japanese prison.

Posters and signs at the west gate entrance to the White House calling for his immediate release form a backdrop as his children run among them playing. One sign made by his children simply says, “I want to go fishing with my Daddy” while another asks if passersby are tired of seeing the family maintaining their vigil.

The odd case of his custody began in May of 2021 as he and his family were returning from an outing to Mt Fuji when he suddenly suffered a medical emergency, passed out and lost control of his vehicle causing a deadly crash. Killed in the ensuing accident were an 85-year-old woman and her 54 -year-old son-in-law.

When the police arrived at the scene, they ignored the pleas of the lieutenant’s wife to call for an ambulance and instead arrested Lt. Alkonis for causing the crash. He was then taken to the police station where he was denied medical attention.

The cause of his losing consciousness was later determined to be acute altitude sickness. His wife Brittany witnessed and related to the police in the immediate aftermath of the crash that he had remained unconscious having not been awoken by the impact. They did not listen.

After transporting him to jail, he was again refused medical attention as it was their contention that he had “fallen asleep” and should have pulled over instead of continuing to drive, thus making him solely responsible for causing the accident.

While Japanese law does not call for punishment in cases of a medical emergency as a cause, the issue was resolved in the police minds as one solely of negligence. Therefore, the case proceeded criminally and was not dismissed.

In the aftermath of the accident, Lt. Alkonis’ family was required to pay restitution of more than one million dollars to the victim’s family as is part of Japanese custom in such cases. The family, to meet this massive financial obligation, was able to utilize in part insurance proceeds, personal savings and monies forthcoming from their extended Mormon community many of whose members borrowed funds to help pay the obligation.

In practically every case, after having paid restitution under similar circumstances, defendants are freed. This was not to be so in this instance. After being held in jail for 18 months, the court found him guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison. Unfortunately, in Japan time spent in pre-detention custody prior to trial according to his mother, Suzi Alkonis, is not credited against a sentence. Therefore, he will have to serve the full sentence beginning in July of this year making his punishment for the accident a four-and-a-half-year sentence.

His mother also told this reporter that the victim’s family knows someone in the prosecutor’s office who likely influenced the court’s decision to make an example of him. It is not unknown in Japan that sentiment for American military members accused of crimes are in the public’s mind too often given lenient sentences and that no doubt also played into this case and its outcome.

The family remains hopeful that their petitioning the president and Congress will result in his release. Suzi Alkonis did state that she was disappointed in the Department of Defense for its disengagement in the case while she spoke highly regrading U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, who she characterized as being fully engaged and working towards a positive resolution in the matter.

It remains yet to be seen just when Lt. Ridge Alkonis will be released and back fishing with his children where he should be and whose only crime was suffering a medical emergency while receiving very little help, empathy and justice from one of America’s strongest and foremost allies.

© 2022 nuzeink all rights reserved worldwide

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.) 

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.


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