News Branch Navy

Navy officer convicted in fatal car crash in Japan won’t be promoted

Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis spent over 500 days in Japanese prison after he was convicted for a May 2021 car crash that killed two.
Jeff Schogol Avatar
Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis
Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis was released from federal prison on Jan. 12, 2024. A Japanese court initially sentenced him to 3 years in prison following a fatal car crash in which two people were killed. (Navy photo)

Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, who was found guilty of killing two Japanese citizens in a May 2021 car crash, will not get a promotion.

Alkonis’ name had appeared on a recent Navy promotion list of officers to be advanced to lieutenant commander. However, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said this week that Alkonis would not be promoted.

Stars and Stripes first reported on Tuesday that Del Toro had decided not to promote Alkonis.

“After full consideration and deliberation, I have decided to remove Lt. Ridge Alkonis from the Lieutenant Commander promotion list,” Del Toro said in a statement to Task & Purpose. “I reached this decision after a complete review of the facts and circumstances surrounding his case, to include forwarding this matter to a Special Selection Review Board. As the Secretary of the Navy, I take my Title 10 responsibilities seriously to ensure fair and equal consideration of every personnel matter under my purview.”

Alkonis was driving in Japan after visiting Mt. Fuji in May 2021 when his car struck and killed an 84-year-old Japanese woman and a 54-year-old man in a restaurant parking lot. A Japanese court sentenced Alkonis to three years in prison for the fatal crash.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

Alkonis, who was assigned to the destroyer USS Benfold at the time, argued that he had lost consciousness due to mountain sickness. U.S. Navy doctors also determined that Alkonis had experienced acute mountain sickness, but he was never medically examined by Japanese authorities.

Ultimately, a Japanese judge ruled that Alkonis had fallen asleep at the wheel, and he should have pulled over for feeling drowsy.

After spending more than 500 days in a Japanese prison, Alkonis was transferred to the United States in December to serve the remainder of his sentence in federal custody. President Joe Biden was involved in talks with the Japanese government to bring Alkonis to the United States.

Roughly a month later, the U.S. Parole Commission ordered that Alkonis be released after serving half of his original sentence. The early release caused a wave of public outcry in Japan.

No information was immediately available about how Del Toro’s decision will affect whether Alkonis can continue to serve in the Navy.

The latest on Task & Purpose