Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis was sentenced to three years in a Japanese prison in October for what Japanese courts deemed to be the negligent driving deaths of two Japanese citizens in May 2021. Alkonis appealed, but his sentence was upheld last month.
Alkonis has maintained that he suffered from acute mountain sickness as he was driving down from Mount Fuji with his family on May 29, 2021, and fell unconscious behind the wheel, leading to the deadly crash. An 85-year-old woman and her 54-year-old son-in-law died in the accident.
The Japanese high court did not believe Alkonis’ argument that he fell ill, and instead accused him of falling asleep at the wheel. Under those standards, Alkonis’ sentence could have been longer — under Japanese law, he could have faced up to seven years in prison, according to the Japanese government.
But Alkonis’ family has argued he was ill, not negligent, and therefore committed no crime. They have also noted that they offered the victims’ families over $1 million in restitution, as is customary in Japan.
“My husband was the victim of a medical emergency, yet he’s being treated like a criminal,” Alkonis’ wife Brittany said during a news conference on Wednesday. “Who is being punished the most by this injustice? It’s our three innocent children that miss their father every day.”
No member of the US government has publicly said Alkonis did not receive a fair trial, but discussions have been taking place about bringing him back to the US to serve out…