CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Navy officer who’d been jailed in Japan over deadly crash now released from US custody, family says

Jan 12, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:05 pm

FILE - Derek and Suzi Alkonis pose with a photo of their son Lt. Ridge Alkonis on Wednesday, June 1...

FILE - Derek and Suzi Alkonis pose with a photo of their son Lt. Ridge Alkonis on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Dana Point, Calif. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Navy officer who had been jailed in Japan over a car crash that killed two Japanese citizens was released from U.S. custody on Friday, one month after he was returned to the United States and placed in a federal prison, his family said.

Related: Sen. Lee calls for immediate release of jailed Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis

Lt. Ridge Alkonis was ordered released by the U.S. Parole Commission, according to the Justice Department and a family statement that described the extra detention in a Los Angeles detention facility as “unnecessary.” In total, he spent 537 days locked up either in Japan or the U.S.

“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,” the statement said. Alkonis’s family is from southern California.

The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed in a separate statement that he had been released.

Alkonis was released from Japanese custody last month while serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the negligent driving deaths of a woman and her son-in-law in May 2021. Alkonis’ family has said the crash was an accident that was caused when he lost consciousness while on a trip to Mount Fuji. Japanese prosecutors maintained that he fell asleep while drowsy and shirked a duty to pull over as he became fatigued.

He was transferred in December into the custody of the Bureau of Prisons through a Justice Department program that permits the relocation of prisoners convicted in another country back to their home nation. The program stipulates that the sentence cannot be longer than the one imposed by the foreign government.

His family said no prison time was appropriate and protested the detention in Los Angeles.

The Parole Commission, which determines the release dates in the case of returning Americans, said that it had concluded that Alkonis was lawfully convicted in Japan of negligent driving causing death or injury and that the conviction was most similar in the U.S. criminal code to involuntary manslaughter.

But though U.S. sentencing guidelines recommended that a sentence of ten to 16 months be served if Alkonis had been convicted of the same crime in the U.S., the Parole Commission also determined that the amount of time he had already been jailed would have exceeded the applicable guideline range.

“Thus, as of January 12, 2024, the Commission ordered that he be immediately released from custody based on the time he had already served,” the Parole Commission said in a statement.

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Navy officer who’d been jailed in Japan over deadly crash now released from US custody, family says