A Garden Grove police officer, who reached out to a Huntington Beach cop he did not know to successfully get a ticket fixed for a woman in the alcohol industry in exchange for booze, has likely escaped jail time. A jury in December convicted Michael John Zannitto, 47, of misdemeanor conspiracy to obstruct justice, and a judge today sentenced him to a year's probation and 30 days in jail that he will not have to serve if he completes 100 hours of community service.
One year was the maximum jail sentence faced by the cop who'd logged 11 years in Garden Grove at the time he met the ticketed lady. The jury also convicted Zannitto's partner in crime, Surf City Officer Erik Michael Krause, on the same charge. The 44-year-old is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 15, when he faces the same maximum punishment of probation and a year in jail.
Krause issued the 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 was off duty and not in uniform, met her at Knott's Berry
Farm. 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
declaration. Zannitto got ahold of Krause, then a 22-year veteran of the HBPD force, on
Jan. 25, 2012, 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, 2012, Krause
informed Zannitto that he would take care of dismissing the woman's
traffic citation. The woman by then let Zannitto know she could
hook the cops up with free booze, information Zannitto related to Krause.
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, which resulted in December's jury verdict.
This instructor's bio for Zannitto appears on North Orange County ROP's EMT & Health Occupations page:
Perhaps more interestingly, at least one video featuring Zannitto appears on a website dedicated to the success of police "Click It or Ticket" campaigns nationwide.