A Navy officer serving a three-year prison sentence overseas following a deadly car crash that killed two Japanese citizens near Mount Fuji is now on his way back home to the U.S., his family said Thursday.
The return of Lt. Ridge Alknois comes after his wife Brittany told Fox News earlier this year that he “should not be in jail right now” and that she believed U.S. diplomats “abandoned” her husband following the May 2021 incident.
“After 507 days, Lt. Ridge Alkonis is on his way home to the United States. We are encouraged by Ridge’s transfer back to the United States but cannot celebrate until Ridge has been reunited with his family,” the Dana Point, California-based family told The Associated Press in a statement.
“We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Government to effect this transfer and are glad that an impartial set of judiciary eyes will review his case for the first time,” the statement added, noting that “when the Biden Administration is presented with the complete set of facts and circumstances surrounding the case, we’re confident they will promptly recognize the absurdity of Ridge’s conviction.”
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Alkonis’ family has said the naval officer – who was preparing for a deployment as a department head on the USS Benfold, a missile destroyer – abruptly lost consciousness in the car he was driving after an excursion with his wife and children to Mount Fuji on May 29, 2021, causing him to slump over behind the wheel after suffering acute mountain sickness.
They had climbed a portion of the mountain and were back in the car, heading to lunch and ice cream near the base of Mount Fuji when the crash happened. But Japanese prosecutors and the judge who sentenced Alkonis contend he fell asleep while drowsy, shirking a duty to pull over immediately.
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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 medical treatment or an evaluation, according to a statement from a family spokesman to the AP. 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.
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Alkonis later was indicted on a charge of negligent driving, resulting in death, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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