Mike Lee Urges Defense Department To Freeze Navy Officer Jailed In Japan

Sen. Mike Lee has targeted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over his department’s handling of US Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, whose pay will be cut while he serves a controversial three-year prison sentence in Japan.

“Secretary Austin rudely told me that day that the request for a policy exception would not be honored,” Lee, R-Utah, said during a Senate appearance Thursday, according to a report in Stripes. “I asked him why. He believed the department should not be doing this.”

Lee’s 23-minute speech came as the Defense Department said it would deny Alkonis’ request to extend his pay and benefits while he serves time in prison in Japan. Lee said the move would hurt the officer’s wife and their children. Japan is “kicking to the limit” as Christmas approaches.

Alconis, who is stationed at the Yokosuka Naval Base, was charged by Japanese courts with careless driving after he was involved in a car accident in October 2021 that killed two people.

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Lt. Ridge Alconis and family member.
(Screenshot from “Fox News @ Night”)

In his address, Alkonis noted that he had suddenly suffered acute mountain sickness after driving his family through Fujinomiya and passing out after hiking Mt.Fuji. But despite Alkonis proving that both a general practitioner and a neurologist had diagnosed him with the condition after the accident, his conviction was upheld by the Tokyo High Court.

“Why is he in prison in Japan, did he steal anything, did he hurt anyone? No, none of the above,” Lee said in his speech. “It wasn’t a criminal act; it was a medical emergency that led to a tragedy, and I’m sorry that it did.”

The senator added that Alconis “had a rare disease that he didn’t know about; he may not have known he had it. It caused him to lose consciousness at the time.”

Lee argued that the DoD should release Alconis, citing a section of the law that allows it to continue paying in “exigent circumstances.”


Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc)

“I think if there’s one example that’s perfectly suited for this statute, or inevitably justified, it’s that of Lt. Ridge Alkonis,” Lee said.

The Utah senator said that if the department doesn’t approve the exemption, it would have to formally deny the lawsuit and explain its decision to Congress, where Lee said there would be bipartisan support for changing the law.

“Of course it’s incredible,” Lee said.

Brittany Alkonis, the Navy officer’s wife, expressed optimism in a social media post Friday that Congress will work on a solution.

Defense Minister Lloyd Austin.

Defense Minister Lloyd Austin.
((Photo by Thomas Niedermüller/Getty Images))

“I’m happy to talk to members of Congress that I trust [Lee] If the Defense Department doesn’t act, Congress will, he said.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

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