Wife of jailed sailor feels ‘abandoned’ by Navy

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation) — It’s been nearly a month since Lt. Ridge Alkonis was sentenced to three years in a Japanese prison after a fatal crash, and his wife says she feels “totally abandoned” by the Navy in her fight for his release.

In May 2021, Ridge Alkonis was driving with his wife, Brittany, and children when he lost consciousness and control of his car, which drifted and crashed, killing an 85-year-old woman and her son-in-law, according to his family. He was indicted on a charge of negligent driving resulting in death.

The 34-year-old said he was struck with a case of altitude sickness, which was supported by a neurologist’s diagnosis, but during an appeal of the conviction, a panel of three Japanese judges said it was unlikely and maintained he fell asleep and should’ve pulled over.

Alkonis is now fighting for her husband’s release.

“We have been told that we cannot assume that my husband’s best interests are what is in the Navy’s best interest … and I think the Navy’s inaction has only proved that our interests are not aligned,” Alkonis said Wednesday as a guest of “On Balance With Leland Vittert.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Aug. 16 that U.S. officials have been in touch with their Japanese counterparts to seek a resolution in the case.

After the crash near Fujinomiya, Alkonis was arrested by Japanese authorities and held for 26 days in solitary confinement at a police detention facility, interrogated multiple times a day and was not given a medical treatment or evaluation, according to a statement provided to the Associated Press. That statement says that when American authorities arrived to take Alkonis into custody and return him to a U.S. base, he already was held by the Japanese.

The case has left Alkonis with discomfort about the military’s support for its soldiers.

“If someone were to ask me today would I go to Japan, I would say no. If someone were to ask me today if I would join the military, I would say no,” she said.

Alkonis said she’s spoken with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, but little has come of the discussions. One idea that’s been floated is a prisoner transfer treaty, which Alkonis said is out of the question.

“It requires him to return to the United States as a criminal, so then he would be a criminal in the two countries that he loved and served,” she said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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