Unusual criminal case over handwritten lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ goes to trial

Handwritten lyrics of The Eagles’ hit “Hotel California” are at the center of a criminal case that began in New York this week.

Three collectors, the defendants in the case who have pleaded not guilty, have been accused of trying to profit off the more than 80 pages of handwritten lyrics from the band’s hit “Hotel California” album, released in 1976. They have also been accused of trying to foil the efforts of Eagles co-founder Don Henley to retrieve the documents.

According to the Associated Press:

Rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and various other charges. Their lawyers have said the case “alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals.”

The documents include lyrics-in-development for “Life in the Fast Lane,” “New Kid in Town” and, of course, “Hotel California,” the more than six-minute-long, somewhat mysterious musical tale of the goings-on at an inviting, decadent but ultimately dark place where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

 

Henley reportedly noticed some of the pages being auctioned more than a decade ago and reported them stolen, The case against the three men was brought in 2022 and prosecutors contend they schemed to deliver multiple scenarios to explain how they had come into possession of the pages.

During opening statements in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, District Attorney Nicolas Penfold said the defendants “were not businessmen acting in good faith, but criminal actors who tried to profit from property they knew to be stolen.”

He described the men as “criminal actors who deceive and manipulate to frustrate Don Henley’s just efforts to recover his stolen property and forestall legal accountability,” the New York Post reported.

“If Glenn Horowitz thought these pads were stolen, why risk his career for a mere $15,000?” Horowitz’s attorney, Jonathan Bach, argued in court, contending his client had no interest in a “get rich scheme.”

Kosinski’s attorney, Matthew Laroche indicated he would be filing a motion to dismiss the case at the conclusion of the non-jury trial which is expected to have Henley testify as well.

“This case is a case about context. The people have accused three innocent men of a crime that never occurred,” Stacey Richman, Inciardi’s attorney, argued.

Eagles long-time manager Irving Azoff was the first on the witness stand Wednesday, according to the Post. He testified that Henley “felt like he was being extorted” after the runaround in trying to buy back his documents.

“[Henley] didn’t know the extent to what else was out there and [would] open a can of worms if he continued to write more and more checks to get his lyrics back,” Azoff said.

Frieda Powers

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