Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilitySenate passes Lee amendment keeping pay, benefits flowing to family of Lt. Ridge Alkonis | KUTV
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Senate passes Lee amendment keeping pay, benefits flowing to family of Lt. Ridge Alkonis

Lt. Ridge Alkonis is pictured with his family. (Photo: Alkonis family)
Lt. Ridge Alkonis is pictured with his family. (Photo: Alkonis family)
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An amendment proposed by Utah Sen. Mike Lee ordering the Secretary of the Navy to continue paying salary and benefits to the family of an imprisoned Navy lieutenant has passed the Senate.

The amendment to a federal spending bill, which keeps financial support flowing to Lt. Ridge Alkonis and his family, was approved unanimously Thursday morning on a voice vote. It still needs to pass the U.S. House of Representatives and be signed by President Biden.

In his remarks on the Senate floor prior to the vote, Lee called Alkonis “one of the best and the brightest Naval officers this country has” who suffered an “unforeseeable, unforeseen medical emergency” that led to the death of two Japanese citizens, for which Alkonis is currently in prison.

In May 2021, Alkonis was driving with his family when he blacked out and hit the two people, killing them. His family said it was an accident due to acute mountain sickness, and they paid $1.65 million in restitution to the victims’ families.

Still, Alkonis was sentenced to three years in a Japanese prison. His sentence began in July.

“It was, indeed, an accident, not preventable or foreseeable by Lt. Alkonis,” Lee said of the May 2021 incident.

Pay and benefits for Alkonis are set to expire next week after U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declined to grant an exception to policy. In a statement earlier this week, the Department of Defense said an exception would be “contrary to military custom and practice.”

But Lee, who has been critical of Japan’s decision to imprison Alkonis, has been working to prevent that from happening, largely through the amendment that was approved Thursday. The full $1.7 trillion spending bill with that amendment ended up passing the Senate 68 to 29 later Thursday, although Lee voted against it. In recent days on Twitter, he has criticized its size while calling the last-minute process to vote on and pass it "corrupt."

Alkonis has many family members in Utah, and his wife, Brittany, is a graduate of Brigham Young University. In an interview earlier this week from her home in Japan, Brittany Alkonis said she felt “betrayed” by the military’s decision to let her husband’s pay and benefits expire.

Brittany Alkonis and her three children spent months in Washington, D.C. trying to draw attention to the case and urging the president and other top leaders to “bring Ridge home.”

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Lee told KUTV 2News earlier this week he is trying to negotiate a prisoner transfer with Japan to bring Lt. Alkonis back to the United States.

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