Disbarred vigilante attorney, homeowner arraigned in foreclosure break-in
A disbarred foreclosure defense attorney and former homeowner were arraigned for attempting to break into a foreclosed Newport Beach, Calif., home last fall. Michael T. Pines, 59, of San Diego, and Rene Hector Zepeda, 72, of Newport Beach, are charged with one misdemeanor count each of vandalism, second-degree burglary and the unauthorized entry of a dwelling, according to the Orange County district attorney. Pines faces an additional misdemeanor count for resisting and obstructing an officer. If convicted, both defendants face a maximum sentence of one year in jail and up to $10,000 in fines, the DA's office said. They turned themselves into court Tuesday on a warrant and are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on June 20. Pines made the national news headlines with the break-in — one of three in which he attended and encouraged the foreclosed homeowners to bust into their former homes, according to court records. In the disbarment case against Pines, Richard Honn, judge of the State Bar Court of California said Pines views himself "as a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, who encouraged civil disobedience to effect universal societal benefits, including ending slavery and war," but added, "Respondent is not Thoreau, and his cause is not slavery or war. (Pines) sought a few minutes of fame in front of reporters or the television cameras while he violated the law, or encouraged his clients to do so." The disbarment took effect May 1. Zepeda owned a home in the Newport Coast subdivision at 19 Coral Cay until July 2009, when his lender repossessed the home in a foreclosure proceeding. In 2010, Zepeda retained Pines as his attorney, according to the DA's office. Without making any attempt to prove the foreclosure was defective, Pines advised Zepeda that the foreclosure was illegal and instructed him to break in and physically repossess the home. Pines is accused of contacting the media and a real estate agent hired by the bank as trustee for the home, then in REO status, and informing them that Pines and Zepeda would take possession of the home on Oct. 13, 2010. The agent contacted the Newport Beach Police Department. On the morning of Oct. 13, Pines and Zepeda went to the house with a locksmith. The police, also there, warned them they could be arrested if they entered the property, which was at that point owned by a lender. In front of the officers, Pines is accused of instructing Zepeda to ignore the warning. Zepeda and Pines are accused of then breaking a window with the intention of gaining entrance into the house. Both defendants were arrested, cited and released. Pines is also facing criminal charges in separate cases in Ventura and San Diego Counties, according to the DA's office. (Michael T. Pines is not associated with Michael Pines, 53, a personal injury attorney practicing in San Diego/La Jolla, Calif. The other Pines does not use a middle initial and his firm is known as the Law Offices of Michael Pines.) Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.