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Former CHP convicted of fixing ticket for sex

ABC7 Eyewitness News HD covering Los Angeles and Southern California.

June 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A former San Diego California Highway Patrol officer was convicted Monday of bribery and perjury for dismissing a speeding ticket against a woman in exchange for sex.Abram Carabajal, 53, faces up to four years and eight months in state prison when he is sentenced Sept. 10 for the felony charges.

Carabajal, a married father of five, smiled nervously when the judge read the verdicts. The judge allowed Carabajal to remain free on bail pending sentencing, but ordered him to surrender his CHP commemorative firearms and ammunition.

The court acquitted the woman he pulled over, of subordination of perjury, giving a bribe and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors say Carabajal pulled over 48-year-old Shirin Zarrindej of Encino for speeding on March 12, 2008, then at some point, developed a relationship with her.

Zarrindej, a single mother with a young daughter, spoke briefly to reporters as she left the courthouse.

"This was nothing but love," Zarrindej said. "It was a relationship. It was wrong."

Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Dort said in his closing argument that Carabajal used the speeding ticket as a kind of "bait" in an attempt to foster a relationship with Zarrindej, who was pulled over on southbound Interstate 5 near Oceanside.

Carabajal told the woman, "Maybe we can work something out," after writing the ticket, Dort said.

Four other women testified during the trial that the 26-year CHP veteran said similar things and gave them his phone number after stopping them for speeding on the same stretch of highway.

The CHP had warned Carabajal to stop trying to foster relationships through tickets, the prosecutor said.

"You can't go around the justice system using your ticket book to meet people," Dort told the jury.

Dort said Carabajal's goal with Zarrindej was sex and her goal was to get out of the ticket.

"Tickets are a dime a dozen," the prosecutor said. "He (Carabajal) was at the end of his career. This was just another way for him to enjoy himself."

On the witness stand, Carabajal denied dismissing Zarrindej's ticket in exchange for sex. But he admitted developing a friendly relationship with her and driving to her Encino home, where they had sex.

On June 30, 2008 -- the day before the speeding ticket was to go to court -- Carabajal said he reserved a room at a hotel in Oceanside to celebrate Zarrindej's birthday.

The next day in court, Carabajal said he told the judge he didn't receive the subpoena for Zarrindej's case and asked that the case be dismissed.

Carabajal said he meant to say he didn't have the subpoena with him, but misspoke in court.

The ex-officer said he didn't take a bribe from Zarrindej because she told him he had to pay her back for the hotel room.

Carabajal said he left court and Zarrindej followed him to the hotel.

Once there, Zarrindej asked, "Do you really want to do this?" Carabajal testified.

Carabajal said he spent some time in a room with Zarrindej, then went back to court.

After court, Carabajal said he picked up some candy and roses for Zarrindej and took it to the room.

Once there, Zarrindej told him that officers had paid her a visit.

"I was very upset," he testified. "I had a sinking feeling that I was being investigated and betrayed by my department."

Carabajal said he left the hotel immediately and never spoke to Zarrindej again. He said he retired from the CHP on July 3, 2008, two days after the rendezvous at the hotel.

AP and CNS contributed to this report.


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