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Ridge Alkonis is Home Now – HotAir

Lt. Ridge Alkonis is home with this family this weekend. He was released Friday and his wife and children were reunited with him outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. He had been detained there since December 14, 2023.

This is a happy ending to a lousy story. I wrote about Alkonis a year ago in January 2023. At that time, Biden was scheduled to hold a summit with the Japanese prime minister. Senator Mike Lee followed the case and worked on getting Alkonis released from a Japanese prison.

Lt. Alkonis was involved in a tragic car accident in 2021 and convicted of negligent driving.

This is from that post in January 2023:

Alkonis was convicted of negligent driving in the deaths of an 85-year-old Japanese woman and her 54-year-old son-in-law on May 29, 2021, while the Alkonis family was driving down Mount Fuji after a day trip.

A Japanese judge determined Alkonis had fallen asleep at the wheel and lost control of his vehicle, which plowed into pedestrians and parked cars in a restaurant parking lot two hours from Yokosuka Naval Base, where he was serving as anti-submarine warfare officer.

But U.S. Navy investigators determined that Alkonis suffered from acute mountain sickness and lost consciousness. His wife and children said that he was not sleepy and appeared to black out. They said that once he passed out, he was unresponsive to their screams and one daughter’s kicks. He remained unconscious even during the crash itself.

It’s a horrible story. He apparently blacked out while on a family outing and there was a tragic accident. The Japanese judge imprisoned the U.S. military officer. Senator Mike Lee stood by the 35-year-old Alkonis and worked to get him home. He was transferred to U.S. custody on Dec. 14. The question at the time was why Alkonis was held in detention in the U.S. after the Japanese finally released him. The judge in Japan sentenced him to three years in jail.

The wife of Alkonis put the spotlight on her husband’s imprisonment in Japan in the days before Christmas. She explained that her husband had been transferred into U.S. custody but was not freed. She asked that the president pardon him and help get him home for Christmas. The couple has three young children. That didn’t happen but it reminded people who watched her television interviews of her husband’s situation.

A family spokesperson released a statement when he was released.

“It’s long overdue, and I’m just so glad that this family has finally been reunited, that Ridge is able to be with his wife Brittany and their three children,” family spokesman Andrew Eubanks said in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Then the family released this statement:

“This morning, after 537 days of unnecessary detention, the U.S. Parole Commission ordered Lt. Ridge Alkonis’ immediate release. He is now back home with his family, where he belongs. We will have more to say in time, but for now, we are focused on welcoming Ridge home and respectfully ask for privacy.”

It looks like the Secretary of Defense and Joe Biden dropped the ball. While he was imprisoned, Ridge’s pay and benefits were stopped so his wife and children were on their own. Though Alkonis’ wife met with Joe Biden after his 2023 State of the Union speech that included recognizing some Americans being held overseas, there was no mention of him or his case after that.

The Alkonis family appealed directly to President Joe Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan both worked on the prisoner transfer, according to the Times and CNN.

The prisoner exchange program is intended to better rehabilitate prisoners by returning them to their home country where they understand the language. His case then went to the U.S. Parole Commission, an independent part of the Justice Department. The department reviewed it to determine how long Alkonis should remain in federal prison, The New York Times reported.

Senator Lee has questions.

It is clear that this case was handled differently than other cases in Japan. He apologized to the family and paid a record amount in restitution. He speaks Japanese fluently.

He paid a record $1.65 million in restitution to the Japanese family. Some of the money came from insurance. More than $500,000 came from family and friends, some of whom tapped into retirement funds or mortgaged their homes to help. His apology and restitution payment, or gomenasai, is customary in Japan and regularly leads to suspended sentences.

It wasn’t a criminal act, it was a medical emergency.

I hope he gets the back pay his family was denied. His CO recommended a promotion, which I also hope he receives. This case went sideways quickly and I am sure there will be lots of questions asked. He served in Japan for seven years. He loved serving in Japan, according to his family. He is a specialist in undersea warfare and acoustic engineering.

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