The wife of a US Navy officer recently transferred to US custody after being jailed in Japan called on President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice to support his release.
Lt. Ridge Alkonis was booked into a federal prison in Lost Angeles last week after having served time in a Japanese prison, where he was sentenced to three years for negligent driving that resulted in the deaths of two people and injuries to a third person in May 2021. Alkonis, who was stationed in Japan, said he suffered from acute mountain sickness as he was driving with his family from Mount Fuji, which caused him to lose consciousness. That argument was rejected by the court and his appeal was denied in July 2022.
“Every morning my children wake up, they are paying the price of the US-Japan alliance. He should not be in prison right now, he could be home,” Brittany Alkonis told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” Monday. “If DOJ and if the president wanted him to be home, he would be home and he could be home for Christmas.”
The Department of Justice declined to comment. CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
A US official previously told CNN that Alkonis had been remanded to US custody after direct engagement by Vice President Kamala Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and was being brought back to the US under an international prisoner convention that allows individuals to serve the remainder of their confinement in their home country.
Alkonis, the official said, will “go before an entity called the US parole commission within the Department of Justice, which will consider his case and make a determination about further confinement.”
That process could take several months, a DOJ official said. The parole commission will look at Alkonis’ prison sentence in Japan and determine what would have been done in the US, and then determine what his remaining punishment would be. He could end up in home custody, the official said.
Brittany Alkonis said Monday that while she expected her husband would first be transferred to a federal prison after arriving in the US from Japan, “there was never a strict guideline as to how long he would be in prison.”
“I am shocked that he remains there today, I am shocked that he could be there for months,” she told Tapper.
Brittany Alkonis said that she and her children were granted access to see Ridge Alkonis once he returned to the US, and added that “all things considered, he’s doing pretty well. Seeing the kids hug him for the first time was incredible.”
In Japan, she said, they were granted “four, five visits a month, half an hour behind glass, supervised with guards and with interpreters writing down our conversation. Now it is more in a group setting, a room. We don’t have people listening in, my kids love that, they’re much more comfortable.”
Alkonis’ family pushed for him to be transferred back to the US under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which would allow him to serve out his sentence there.
Under the terms of the treaty, which Japan joined in 2003, “The prisoner, the Government of Japan and the U.S. government must all agree to the transfer,” according to the US Embassy in Japan. “Transfers can take 2 years or longer from the time the process begins,” it notes.
CNN’s Samantha Waldenberg, Jake Tapper, Natasha Bertrand and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.
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