Sen. Lee says US should 're-evaluate' relations with Japan after U.S. Navy officer imprisoned

U.S. Navy said the officer became unconscious due to altitude sickness

Updated: July 25, 2022 - 12:20pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee said the United States should "re-evaluate" its relationship with Japan after the country sentenced a U.S. Navy officer to three years behind bars for a car crash that the Navy said was caused by a medical emergency.

"Starting at midnight EDT tonight, the Japanese government is going to imprison U.S. Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis," Lee tweeted Sunday.  "His 'crime': he had a medical emergency (not his fault) that caused a car accident."

A Japanese court sentenced Alkonis to three years behind bars after he was convicted of killing two pedestrians in May 2021 when he blacked out while driving his wife and three young children after a family hike at Mt. Fuji.

The Japanese judge did not accept the U.S. Navy's assessment that Alkonis became unconscious due to altitude sickness. The judge instead determined that Alkonis fell asleep at the wheel and said that he should have pulled over if he was tired.

Alkonis' family was hoping would intervene and stop Alkonis from being sent to prison.

"Just a phone call from President Biden," his wife, Brittany Alkonis, told CBS News. "The other would be for the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador [Rahm] Emanuel – he could request clemency on his behalf."

The U.S. Embassy has said only that it is monitoring the case.

Japan is one of the United States' most long-standing allies. The countries a strong military and economic alliance.

"We've been told that this is the most egregious action against a service member in 60 years," Brittany Alkonis also said.

Alkonis said she does not speak Japanese so she did not understand the guilty verdict when it was read in court, but her husband does.

"When I saw his face, I knew that we had lost," she said. "I was heartbroken, and the first thought that came to my mind is I have to drive home and tell my kids that they're not going to see their father for three years."

He was told to report to prison at 1 p.m. local time Monday, Alkonis said.

"If this is how Japan is going to treat U.S. military personnel who have done NOTHING wrong, perhaps we need to re-evaluate a few things – like our status of forces agreement with Japan," Lee also said Sunday.

Just the News Spotlight