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O.C. officers conspired to dismiss traffic ticket, officials say

June 4, 2012 | 11:49 am

Two Orange County police officers from different departments have been charged with illegally conspiring to dismiss a traffic ticket given to a driver who promised the officers “a bunch of alcohol.”

Erik Michael Krause, 43, a 22-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department, and Michael John Zannitto, 46, an 11-year veteran of the Garden Grove Police Department, are accused of exchanging text messages and phone calls with the motorist and each other to dismiss the ticket.

If convicted, they face up to a year in jail, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office, which said in a statement that the officers did not know each other before they allegedly committed the crime.

Prosecutors say Krause ticketed a woman for speeding last November, recording detailed notes. Later that month, Zannitto met the woman at Knott’s Berry Farm while off duty and after learning she worked in the alcohol industry, told the woman he could have her citation dismissed, prosecutors said.

Officials say Zannitto instructed the woman to send a picture of the citation and told her how to contest the ticket. In January, Zannitto called the Huntington Beach Police Department and said the woman was his sister and asked to speak with the officer who issued the ticket, officials said.

Zannitto talked with Krause, who promised to “take care of” the ticket, the district attorney's office said in a statement.

“Please dismiss in the interest of justice. No notes,” Krause wrote on his declaration, according to the district attorney's office. 

A Huntington Beach Police lieutenant initiated the investigation, but the district attorney’s office said that because Krause’s declaration was never filed with the court, the woman’s $234 ticket was dismissed.

Krause and Zannitto are expected to be arraigned June 26. Both face one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.


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-- Matt Stevens