A U.S. Lieutenant residing in Japan took a springtime trip up Mount Fuji with his family. But he couldn’t enjoy the relaxing and enjoyable family vacation he wished for before he needed to deploy.
The exact details of the incident are unclear, but the result led him to face a three-year prison.
His family claim that Ridge Alkonis, the lieutenant, unintentionally lost consciousness suddenly while driving. Due to acute mountain sickness, he fell asleep at the wheel. However, the Japanese judge and prosecutor who sentenced him claim he fell asleep and still didn’t pull over even after right after.
Alkonis’ car collided with pedestrians and parked cars in a parking lot. The bad news is that a girl and her child passed away from getting hit. A Japanese court will appeal Alkonis’ decision on Wednesday. His parents have asked for leniency as their son was in an awful accident but which the prosecutors consider fatal negligence. He still is in Japan.
Alkonis’ father, Derek Alkonis, Dana Point, California, said that he wanted him to be treated fairly for an accident. They don’t think that their son is being treated fairly at all during this incident. They’re concerned that their son was sentenced to 3 years for what was a completely unintentional accident.
After a series of land-based assignments during fall 2021, the native Californian was ready to deploy as the head of the department aboard the USS Benfold. The missile destroyer was expected to arrive on the coast in spring 2021.
As the assignment was near, his family set off on a Mount Fuji sightseeing/hiking excursion on May 29, 2021.
After having climbed a small section of the mountain, Alkonis and his daughter were returning to their car to have lunch and ice cream at Mount Fuji’s foot. Alkonis was talking to his 7-year-old daughter when he fell asleep at the wheel. According to them, he was so disoriented that neither Alkonis’s daughter’s screams nor the impact of collisions helped him get up.
A family spokesperson stated that Alkonis was taken into Japanese custody following the accident in Fujinomiya. Alkonis was kept in isolation at a police station for 26 days. According to the statement, Alkonis had been held in Japanese custody when American authorities arrived to arrest and return him to the American base.
He was charged last October with negligent driving that caused the death of a pedestrian and was sentenced to three years in prison. Japan can sentence him to up to seven years imprisonment. He appealed.
The AP obtained English-language court records. These records show that the judge was skeptical of the mountain sickness claim. Alkonis’ initial statement to police stated that he felt tired after driving on mountainous roads.
Later, he said that he experienced sudden mountain sickness. A June 2021 diagnosis by a neurologist supported this claim. The judge noted that the sensation should have lowered when Alkonis drove downhill.
Alkonis might have suffered from light mountain sickness. The judge said it was possible. However, it was difficult to imagine him suddenly becoming incapacitated.
A Navy spokesperson confirmed that Alkonis was still on active duty and that the Navy had provided the support and care that his family needed.
This case is being played in the context of Japan’s long-standing concerns over the conduct of U.S. military personnel within Japan and the perception that they receive preferential treatment. In 2014, an AP investigation found that most U.S. military personnel in Japan convicted of sex crimes didn’t go to prison. Instead, they were punished with regular demotions, fines, or removal from the military.
Alkonis’ case stands out because he was not charged with any criminal intent. His family claims they took multiple steps to show their regret and take responsibility.
Alkonis’ lawyer said that the family was encouraged by their to cooperate and plead guilty to paying restitution for the victims’ families. They signed a $1.65million settlement. The other half was raised through savings and friends.
Source: AP News
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