A jury Thursday found police officers from Garden Grove and Huntington Beach guilty of conspiring with each other via texts and phone calls to get a traffic ticket dismissed for a woman who promised them free booze.
Erik Michael Krause, 44 and a 22-year veteran of HBPD, and Michael John Zannitto, a 47-year-old who has been on the Garden Grove force 11 years, each face sentences ranging from probation to a year in jail.
Krause issued a then-32-year-old woman a traffic citation for speeding near a stopped school bus on Nov. 9, 2011. Later that same month, Zannitto, who did not know Krause at the time, met the same woman at Knott's Berry Farm while off-duty and not in uniform. She brought up her traffic ticket, and Zannitto said he could get it "fixed."
Zannitto texted the woman on Dec. 6, 2011, asking for a copy of her citation, which she sent seven days later. The cop later instructed her to contest the ticket via written declaration. Zannitto got ahold of Krause on Jan. 25, the same day the woman requested a trial on her citation, paid a $234 fee and contacted Zannitto to confirm she had followed his instructions. Between that day and Feb. 3, Krause informed Zannitto that he would take care of dismissing the woman's traffic citation.
Meanwhile, the woman let it be known to Zannitto, who let it be known to Krause, that through her job she could hook the cops up with free booze.
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Krause would go on to submit a false declaration to the Huntington Beach Police Department requesting the citation be dismissed, writing, "Please dismiss in the interest of justice. No notes . . ." Actually, he'd written detailed notes on the original ticket.
Messages were exchanged between Krause and Zannitto, and Zannitto and the woman, indicating the matter had been taken care of, with the ticketed driver being further informed she would soon receive a refund for the citation payment. A Huntington Beach police lieutenant became suspicious and launched an investigation. Krause's declaration was never filed with the court, and the citation was dismissed because no response to her contesting the ticket was filed. Huntington Beach brass ultimately clued in the Garden Grove agency into the investigation, and both recommended the district attorney file criminal charges against the officers.
They were each convicted of one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and are to be sentenced Jan. 25 in Westminster.