Officers guilty in speeding ticket case

Two police officers were convicted Thursday of conspiring to help a woman illegally get out of a speeding ticket.

Erik Michael Krause, 44, a 22-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department, and Michael John Zannitto, 47, an 11-year veteran of the Garden Grove Police Department, were found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Krause and Zannitto did not know each other prior to the crime.

On Nov. 9, 2011, Krause issued a traffic citation to a 32-year-old unnamed woman who was allegedly speeding near a stopped school bus. He wrote detailed notes on the ticket.

While off-duty that same month, Zannitto met "Jane Doe" at Knott's Berry Farm and told her he could get her ticket dismissed.

The next month, Zannitto text messaged the woman asking for a copy of the ticket, and she sent him a message days later of pictures of alcohol and an offer to exchange alcohol for dismissing the ticket, according to the D.A. The woman works in the alcohol industry.

It wasn't until Jan. 20, 2012, that Jane Doe sent Zannitto a picture of the citation that had been issued by Krause. Zannitto told her to contest the citation by written declaration.

Around the date he received the picture of the citation, Zannitto called the Huntington Beach Police Department asking to speak with Krause under the pretense of discussing a ticket his sister received. He identified himself as a Garden Grove police officer.

Krause and Zannitto talked about the citation on Jan. 25, and Zannitto instructed Jane Doe to request a trial by written declaration with the court, which she did.

Sometime soon after, Krause told Zannitto he would dismiss the woman's citation, which he relayed to Jane Doe via text message on Feb. 3. She responded that she would give both officers a bunch of alcohol.

Krause then sent a request to the court that the citation be dismissed and declared he had no notes, despite having written them on Jane Doe's ticket, according to the district attorney's office..

A Huntington Beach lieutenant was suspicious of Krause's declaration and opened an investigation.

The two could be sentenced to probation and up to one year in jail at their sentencing at 9 a.m. Jan. 25 at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

—Britney Barnes

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