A former Garden Grove police officer was sentenced Friday for conspiring in text messages and phone calls with an officer from a different agency to illegally dismiss a legitimate traffic citation, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Erik Michael Krause, 44, and Michael John Zannitto, 47, were both found guilty by a jury on Dec. 6, 2012 of one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Zannitto was sentenced one year of probation and 30 days in jail stayed pending completion of 100 hours of community service.
Krause faces a sentence ranging from probation up to one year in jail at his sentencing Feb. 15 in West Justice Center in 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 a 32-year-old woman. He wrote detailed notes regarding the violation on the ticket.
Later that same month, Zannitto met the woman at Knott’s Berry Farm. The defendant was off-duty and not in uniform. During this initial meeting, Zannitto told her that he could have her traffic citation dismissed.
On Dec. 6, 2011, Zannitto sent the woman a text message requesting a copy of her citation. On Dec. 13, 2011, Zannitto received a text message from her 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 the woman with a picture of the citation issued to her by Krause. Sometime between November 2011 and Jan. 20, 2012, Zannitto instructed her 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. Authorities claim be 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, the woman 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 her 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 the woman’s traffic citation. On Feb. 3, 2012, Zannitto sent her 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 her 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 the woman’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 the woman’s citation had been submitted. Zannitto then notified her by text message that he had spoken with Krause regarding the submission of the paperwork and that she should soon receive a refund for the citation payment.
An HBPD lieutenantbecme 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 the woman’s written declaration was ever filed, her citation was ultimately dismissed.
The 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 prosecuted this case.