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Trial starts for attorney accused of advising client to break into home

August 30, 2011

The trial for a San Diego attorney who allegedly instructed a client to break into a foreclosed home as a media stunt began Tuesday and is expected to last a week, prosecutors said.

Michael T. Pines, 59, is charged with misdemeanor vandalism, burglary, unauthorized entry of a dwelling and resisting police. He faces up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines.

Authorities said Pines told his client, Rene Hector Zepeda, 72, to break into a home he previously owned to repossess it, then alerted the media, an agent from the bank who owned the home and police to his plan. The crowd was on hand in October to watch Pines and Zepeda break in by shattering a window at the back of the house, according to numerous media accounts.

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Zepeda pleaded no contest to misdemeanor trespassing Monday and will testify in Pines' trial.

The pair broke into the home at 19 Coral Cay in Newport Coast more than a year after Zepeda had been foreclosed on, authorities said. Pines instigated the stunt without trying to undo Zepeda's foreclosure or proving it was defective, prosecutors said.

Pines is representing himself and also faces criminal charges in Ventura and San Diego counties.

The trial is expected to conclude next week, prosecutors said.

— Joseph Serna

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