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
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
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.
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.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.