Welcome to the “Hotel California” case: the start of an extraordinary criminal trial

NEW YORK (AP) — In the mid-1970s, the Eagles were working on a creepy, cryptic new song.

On a yellow lined pad, Don Henley, with input from band co-founder Glenn Frey, jotted down ideas for a “dark desert highway” and a “beautiful place” with a luxurious surface and ominous, ominous colors. And something on ice, perhaps caviar or Taitinger – or pink champagne?

“Hotel California” has become one of rock's most indelible songs. Nearly half a century later, those handwritten pages of song lyrics in preparation are the center of an unusual criminal trial scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Rare book dealer Glenn Hurwitz, former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trustee Craig Inciardi, and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski were charged with conspiring to possess and attempt to sell manuscripts of “Hotel California” and other Eagles songs without the right to do so.

From left, Glenn Horowitz, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski appear in criminal court after being charged with conspiracy involving handwritten notes from the Eagles' hit album “Hotel California” on July 12, 2022 in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

All three have pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers have said the men committed no crime in connection with the papers, which they obtained through a clerk who worked for the Eagles. But the Manhattan District Attorney's Office says the defendants colluded to conceal ownership of the disputed documents, even though they knew Henley said the pages were stolen.

Clashes over valuables are common, but criminal prosecutions like this are rare. Many fights are resolved privately, in lawsuits, or through item return agreements.

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“If you can avoid prosecution by turning something over, most people turn it in,” said Travis McDade, a University of Illinois law professor who studies disputes over rare documents.

Of course, the condition of the Eagles manuscripts is distinctive in other ways as well.

The star witness for the prosecution is actually this: Henley is expected to testify between stops on the Eagles tour. The non-jury trial could offer a peek into the band's creative process and its life on the fast track to stardom in the 1970s.

There are over 80 pages of draft lyrics from the 1976 hit album Hotel California, including lyrics to the chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning song. It features one of classic rock's most recognizable riffs, the most famous solos and the most quotable — and arguably overrated — line: “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.”

Henley He said The song is about “the dark part of the American dream.”

It has still been streamed more than 220 million times, and received 136,000 radio plays last year in the United States alone, according to entertainment data company Luminate. “Hotel California” album. It sold 26 million copies nationwide Over the years, it has only been surpassed by the Eagles' greatest hits disc and Michael Jackson's “Thriller.”

The pages also include lyrics to songs including “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town.” Eagles manager Irving Azoff described the documents as “irreplaceable pieces of musical history.”

Horwitz, Inciardi, and Kosinki are charged with conspiracy to possess stolen property and various other crimes.

They are not accused of actually stealing the documents. Neither does anyone else, but prosecutors still have to prove that the documents were stolen. The defense asserts that this is not true.

Much revolves around the Eagles' interactions with Ed Sanders, the writer who also co-founded the 1960s counterculture rock band The Fugs. He worked in the late 1970s and early 1980s on an authorized biography of the Eagles that was never published.

Sanders has not been charged in this case. She left him a phone message seeking comment.

He sold the pages to Horowitz, who then sold them to Inciardi and Kosinski.

Horowitz has handled huge deals for rare books and archives, and has been embroiled in some ownership wrangling before. One of them included papers associated with the author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell. It's settled.

Inciardi worked on Notable exhibitions The Cleveland-based Rock Hall of Fame. Kosinski has been a lead director on Gotta Have It! Collectibles, which is known for auctioning off the personal possessions of celebrities – is as personal as Madonna He filed a lawsuit to no avail To try to stop a sale that involved her latex panties.

Henley told the grand jury that he never gave the biographer the lyrics, according to court filings filed by Kosinski's attorney. But defense attorneys indicated they planned to investigate Henley's memory at that time.

“We believe that Mr. Henley voluntarily provided the lyrics to Mr. Sanders,” attorney Scott Edelman said in court last week.

Sanders told Horowitz in 2005 that while he was working on the Eagles book, he was sent what papers he wanted from Henley's home in Malibu, California, according to the indictment.

Then Kosinski's company put some of the pages up for auction in 2012. Henley's lawyers came knocking. The indictment says Horwitz, Inciardi, and Sanders, in various groups, began searching for alternative versions of the manuscripts' provenance.

FILE - Edward Kosinski, left, leaves criminal court after being charged with conspiracy involving handwritten notes for an Eagles album. "California hotel," July 12, 2022, in New York.  On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, an unusual criminal trial over handwritten words is scheduled to begin.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Edward Kosinski, left, leaves criminal court after being charged with conspiracy involving handwritten notes for the Eagles' “Hotel California” album, July 12, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

In one story, Sanders found the pages discarded in a backstage dressing room. In other cases, he obtained them from a stage assistant or while collecting “a lot of material related to vultures from different people.” In another letter, he got it from Frey — a novel that “would make this go away once and for all,” Horowitz suggested in 2017. He died the previous year.

“He just needs to be treated nicely and reassured that he's not going to go into the can,” Horovitz emailed Inciardi during a 2012 exchange about turning Sanders' “explanation into a communication” to auctioneers, the indictment says.

Sanders gave or signed off on a variety of explanations, according to the indictment, and it's not clear what he may have conveyed verbally. But it's clear he at least dismissed the locker room tale.

Kosinki sent one explanation, which Sanders agreed with, to Henley's attorney. Kosinski also assured Sotheby's that the musician had “no right” to the documents and requested that potential bidders be kept in the dark about Henley's complaints, the indictment said.

Sotheby's included the lyrics to “Hotel California” in a 2016 auction, but withdrew them after learning their ownership was in question. Sotheby's has not been charged in the case and declined to comment.

Henley privately purchased some draft lyrics from Gotta Have It! for $8,500 in 2012, when he also began filing police reports, according to court filings.

Defense attorneys allege that Henley found talented prosecutors to take his case rather than pursue a civil suit himself.

The district attorney's office worked closely with Henley's legal team, and one investigator was even eager to obtain backstage passes for an Eagles show — until the district attorney said the idea was “wholly inappropriate,” Kosinki's lawyers said in court papers.

Prosecutors dismissed questions about their motives as a “conspiracy theory, not a legal defense.”

Last year, they wrote in court papers: “It is defendants, not prosecutors, who are prosecuted.”

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