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H.B. officer put on leave

Police Department is investigating charges that Erik Krause conspired to illegally dismiss a traffic citation.

June 06, 2012|By Michael Miller

A Huntington Beach police officer charged with conspiring to illegally dismiss a traffic citation was placed on administrative leave from the department, a spokesman said.

Officer Erik Krause was suspended more than a month ago as the department launched an internal investigation into the incident, Lt. Mitch O'Brien said.

Any discipline for him has not yet been determined, he added.

Krause and Michael Zannitto of the Garden Grove Police Department are each charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and face sentences ranging from probation up to one year in jail if convicted. They are set to be arraigned June 26.

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"We're cooperating with the investigation," O'Brien said. "We're the ones who ultimately discovered the potential violation and turned it in to the D.A.'s office."

He noted that he was chagrined by the allegations about Krause, who has served on the force for more than 22 years.

"I'm sure he'll be painted as some evil guy doing something unfortunate, and that's a shame," O'Brien said. "He is an officer with the department."

According to a press release from the Orange County district attorney's office, Krause is accused of writing a ticket in November for a 32-year-old woman who had driven too fast near a stopped school bus. The woman later met Zannitto while he was off duty at Knott's Berry Farm, and he allegedly told her he could get her citation dismissed.

The woman, who works in the alcohol industry, later offered Zannitto free alcohol in exchange for the dismissal, prosecutors said.

She contested the ticket, and Krause, who allegedly conferred with Zannitto, is accused of submitting a false declaration to his department to be submitted to the court in response to the woman's declaration. Prosecutors said the two officers didn't know each other previously.

According to prosecutors, the declaration, which was submitted some time between Jan. 25 and Feb. 14, read, "Please dismiss in the interest of justice. No notes."

A Huntington Beach lieutenant became suspicious of the declaration and started an investigation. Krause's declaration was never filed in court, and the woman's citation was dismissed due to the lack of a response to her contestation.

michael.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @michaelmillerHB

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