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Crime

December 8, 2012
 

Huntington Beach and Garden Grove police officers convicted of conspiracy over traffic ticket

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The following information was released by the Orange County District Attorney.

Two police officers from different agencies were convicted today of conspiring in text messages and phone calls to illegally dismiss a legitimate traffic citation. Erik Michael Krause, 44, and Michael John Zannitto, 47, were both found guilty by a jury of one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. They face a sentence ranging from probation up to one year in jail at their sentencing Jan. 25, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department W-17, West Justice Center, Westminster.

At the time of the crime, Krause was a 22-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) and Zannitto was an 11-year veteran of the Garden Grove Police Department (GGPD). The defendants did not know each other prior to the crime.

On Nov. 9, 2011, Krause issued a traffic citation for speeding in the immediate vicinity of a stopped school bus to 32-year-old Jane Doe. He wrote detailed notes regarding the violation on the ticket. Later that same month, Zannitto met Jane Doe at Knott’s Berry Farm. The defendant was off-duty and not in uniform. During this initial meeting, Zannitto told Jane Doe that he could have her traffic citation dismissed.

On Dec. 6, 2011, Zannitto sent Jane Doe a text message requesting a copy of her citation. On Dec. 13, 2011, Zannitto received a text message from Jane Doe, who works in the alcohol industry, in which she included pictures of alcohol and an offer of free alcohol in exchange for getting the traffic citation dismissed.

On Jan. 20, 2012, Zannitto received a text message from Jane Doe with a picture of the citation issued to her by Krause. Sometime between November 2011 and Jan. 20, 2012, Zannitto instructed Jane Doe to contest her traffic citation by written declaration.

Sometime between Jan. 20, 2012, and Jan. 25, 2012, Zannitto contacted a sergeant at HBPD and identified himself as a GGPD officer. He falsely stated that his sister had been issued a ticket by Krause and asked to be put in contact with Krause under the pretense of having a question.

On Jan. 25, 2012, Krause contacted Zannitto and the defendants discussed the citation. That same day, Jane Doe requested a Trial by Written Declaration with the court as instructed by Zannitto, submitted a statement of facts, and paid the $234 fee. Zannitto then received a text message from Jane Doe informing him that the declaration had been submitted to the court.

Sometime between Jan. 25, 2012, and Feb. 3, 2012, Krause informed Zannitto that he would take care of dismissing Jane Doe’s traffic citation. On Feb. 3, 2012, Zannitto sent Jane Doe a text message to inform her that he had spoken with Krause, who was going to take care of the ticket. He received a text from Jane Doe stating that the two should meet so that she could give him “a bunch of alcohol.” Zannitto responded, “Sounds good to me.”

Sometime between Jan. 25, 2012, and Feb. 14, 2012, Krause submitted a false declaration to HBPD to be submitted to the court in response to Jane Doe’s declaration. Krause fraudulently requested the citation be dismissed and wrote, “Please dismiss in the interest of justice. No notes” on his declaration, despite the detailed notes he had written on Jane Doe’s ticket.

Krause notified Zannitto that the declaration requesting dismissal of Jane Doe’s citation had been submitted. Zannitto then notified Jane Doe by text message that he had spoken with Krause regarding the submission of the paperwork and that Jane Doe should soon receive a refund for the citation payment.

An HBPD Lieutenant became suspicious upon reviewing Krause’s declaration regarding dismissal of the ticket and initiated an investigation. Krause’s declaration was never filed with the court. As no response to Jane Doe’s written declaration was ever filed, her citation was ultimately dismissed.

HBPD investigated this case with cooperation from GGPD and the case was submitted to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for review and the filing of criminal charges.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Duff of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

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