No Justice for Lt. Alkonis is Justice Denied


Brittany Alkonis, wife of imprisoned U.S. Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis who was convicted in Japan of negligent driving for his involvement in a traffic accident that took the lives of two people, demonstrated along with supporters today outside the White House seeking his release from a Japanese prison. Alkonis, who suffered a medical emergency and passed out while behind the wheel of his car as the family was returning from a hiking trip on Mt. Fuji in October of 2021, caused an accident that resulted in the deaths of two people.

At the time of the accident Japanese police, after arresting him at the scene, transported him to jail and denied him access to medical attention in evaluating his condition. Later, on the advice of Department of Defense (DOD) lawyers and officials along with his Japanese lawyer he entered a “strategic guilty plea” to stay out of prison. He was told that under the Japanese jurisprudence system—that operates on a guilty until proven innocent ideology— a not-guilty plea or his defending himself in court would assuredly result in his being sentenced to prison. The “advice” was wrong however as the court sentenced Alkonis to a three-year prison term. During the trial, the prosecutor convinced the court not to allow the results of extensive medical tests which determined he blacked out due to “acute mountain sickness.”

Supporters report that in Japan, according to the Ministry of Justice, “…more than 95% of similarly charged defendants have gotten suspended sentences.” Since that time his wife and supporters have held numerous protests outside the White House calling for his release from prison and questioning the harshness of his sentence.

Brittany, who spoke with this reporter today, related how she flew from Japan where the family is living, to demonstrate at the White House when she learned that both Japan’s prime minister and foreign minister would be in Washington today for meetings. Ironically, too, she related how fate had intervened while she was in a cafe and noticed that Foreign Minister Yoshimasa was also present. She approached him wearing the t-shirt emblazoned with “Bring Ridge Home Now” on it.

While President Biden held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Fumio at the White House in the Oval office and afterward during a working lunch in the Cabinet Room, supporters of Lt. Alkonis manned street barricades outside holding signs calling for Lt. Alkonis’ immediate release.

For his part Foreign Minister Yoshimasa met with Antony Blinken at the Department of State “…to reaffirm the vital importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance in promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

While there has not been any public movement in negotiations for Alkonis’ release, Brittany has been told that the administration is busy working on resolving the issue of his release. She spoke highly, too, of U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, who she described as engaged and working towards a resolution in the case.

For Lt. Alkonis’ part, he is still in solitary confinement at the prison and is allowed two monthly 30-minute visitations with his wife. It was during one of those visits that he requested some basic personal necessities from the Navy such as toothpaste, socks, athletic shoes and long underwear, to buttress himself against the penetrating cold of his cell. The Navy responded that they were unable to provide such due to a “lack of funds.” This from an organization which this year requested $230.8 billion for its operations.

Not one to be deterred, Brittany began purchasing the requested items for both her husband and 11 other prisoners when suddenly the Navy found the funds. While Ankonis speaks, reads and writes Japanese, his time in prison thus far has been difficult and fraught with adjustments both personal as well as to a life in solitary confinement.

The family of three young children for their part have also had to endure the difficulty of a forced separation. Traveling from Japan back to Washington both with and without her children to attend the White House demonstrations has taken a financial toll on the family. Even more so when they were told that when Lt. Alkonis’ leave expires while he is imprisoned, he would lose his pay and benefits because of “Pentagon accounting rules” that would not allow for any exceptions.

Fortunately, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment to the 2023 omnibus appropriation bill that directed the Navy to continue Alkonis’ pay and benefits. It was unanimously adopted by voice vote in the Senate keeping the vital financial survival of the family alive.

Hopefully, Lt. Alkonis’ long ordeal will soon be resolved with his release and repatriation with his family in a tragedy of misfortune and suffering for all those involved.

Photo: Phil Pasquini

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.

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)

© 2023 nuzeink all rights reserved worldwide



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