World · August 3, 2022

The wife of the Navy lieutenant imprisoned in Japan reveals the child’s response

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The wife of a US Navy lieutenant sentenced to three years in a Japanese prison after being involved in a car accident that killed two people, said she is doing everything she can to reunite her children with their father. .

“It’s really about my children, while it’s hard for us, the ones who really pay the price for this and for alliance and politics are my children,” Brittany Alkonis, wife of the Navy lieutenant. Ridge Alkonis, told Fox News Digital. “They are young and in the formative years of their life. They need a father”.

The family ordeal began after a hike to Mount Fuji in Japan, shortly before the lieutenant. Alkonis had to take sides. The family had been in Japan for about a year and nine months before taking the hike as part of a three-year tour of the country, hoping to create some memories for themselves and their children before he was gone for most. part of the following year.

But the memory turned into tragedy when the lieutenant. Alkonis suffered a medical episode behind the wheel on the family’s return trip, hitting two vehicles which then impacted two pedestrians who died from their injuries.

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Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis and a family member.

Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis and a family member.
(“Fox News @ Night” screen)

“We drove above sea level that day and by the end of the hike we were over 8,000 feet,” recalled Brittany Alkonis. “We hiked until we thought it was a little too dangerous for the kids and decided to go back. We were only 5 minutes away from our destination, Ridge was in mid-conversation with our eldest daughter when she lost consciousness. We were staying. only going about 25 mph, but he didn’t regain consciousness. “

Alkonis said she also felt nauseous from elevation changes, which caused her to lean back and fall asleep shortly before the accident. She did not open her eyes again until impact, while her daughter tried unsuccessfully to wake her father.

“It almost all happened,” Alkonis recalled.

Lieutenant Alkonis was arrested on the spot, something his wife believed was routine as authorities investigated the incident. But her husband was soon subjected to interrogation and solitary confinement and was never released from detention.

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“This wasn’t a drunk driver, he didn’t fall asleep, but he just went downhill from there,” Alkonis said.

Lieutenant Alkonis was later diagnosed with acute mountain sickness, caused by too rapid ascent to high altitudes and which can cause sudden fainting for up to 24 hours, but the diagnosis has been of little use in Japan’s exclusive judicial system.

A family lawyer explained that it is Japanese custom to show remorse in court instead of trying to argue their innocence, leading the family to formally apologize for the incident and pay $ 1.65 million in compensation. They were told that over 95% of people who follow a similar path receive the suspended sentence, but the lieutenant. Alkonis was sentenced to three years. An appeal in which Lieutenant Alkonis presented that his medical diagnosis was also denied, leaving the family with few options for justice.

Japanese air self-defense force F-35A.

Japanese air self-defense force F-35A.
(US Air Force photo taken by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

“If we knew he was going to jail anyway, we would have told him no,” Alkonis said. “The result of both tests was beyond what anyone could have expected.”

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To make matters worse, Alkonis believes part of the reason her husband is not receiving fair treatment is that an influential member of the court is a family member of one of the victims of the accident.

“One of the deceased is a family member of a Tokyo High Court prosecutor who has a lot of influence,” Alkonis said. “I think he has something to do with condemning him.”

Her husband’s case garnered rare bipartisan attention on Capitol Hill, with Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Representative Mike Levin, D-Calif., Both asking Japan to release the lieutenant. Alconis.

“I find it unforgivable to say the least that an American who has experienced a medical emergency should be treated so badly by an allied nation he is protecting,” Lee said during remarks in the Senate last week.

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“Clearly the Japanese judicial system is trying to make an example of Lt. Alkonis, possibly stemming from a history of controversy over our status of forces deal,” Lee added. “He is in the crosshairs because he is American and because he was in the unfortunate position of having suffered a medical emergency that ended in a tragedy.”

The Status of Forces Agreement, a treaty regulating matters between American serving members and host nation governments, between the United States and Japan, has long been controversial among the Japanese. Although Japanese courts retain jurisdiction over crimes committed by US troops in the country, exceptions to the rules have sometimes caused negative feelings among Japanese authorities who believe US forces have extra privileges.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference on the Capitol on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks during a press conference on the Capitol on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
(Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc)

Levin made it clear that the Pentagon should do more in the case, vowing it would continue to work to protect the lieutenant. The release of Alkonis.

“I will not give up Lieutenant Alkonis and neither will the Department of Defense,” he said.

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The case also has implications for an alliance that has been stable for decades, something Lee acknowledged and also called on President Biden to make the case a priority.

“We have been allies for a long time,” Lee said.

Ms. Alkonis also hopes to involve the White House, noting that the support of lawmakers makes her “confident that the momentum is starting to move in our direction.”

“I am constantly doing things to get him out of jail,” Alkonis said. “I will go to Washington in a couple of weeks with the goal of speaking with National Security Advisor or President Biden, I will stay there as long as necessary.”

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Meanwhile, Alkonis said the ordeal put a strain on his family. Unlike camps, where he can explain to his children that the father is doing something meaningful and important, being in prison is something his youngest son “doesn’t understand.”

Communication is also difficult, limited to regular mail and two short 20-minute visits per month. The grim reality prompted Alkonis to focus her attention on securing her husband’s release.

“I hope something comes out of the trip to Washington,” Alkonis said. “It is important that children see that we are fighting for justice. We do not ask for special treatment, we just want to be treated as any Japanese citizen would be treated.”

Ashley Papa of Fox News contributed to this report.