Don Henley targeted in scheme to sell him stolen ‘Hotel California’ lyrics: prosecutors

Three collectors conspired to sell the handwritten lyrics of The Eagles’ hit “Hotel California” back to the legendary rock band’s frontman in a scheme to make thousands off the “stolen” manuscripts, Manhattan prosecutors charged at the start of their trial Wednesday.

Rare-books dealer Glenn Horowitz, ex-Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinki allegedly repeatedly gave Eagles co-founder Don Henley the runaround when he asked for the return of the lyrics, which prosecutors said were stolen from him decades ago.

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

Craig Inciardi, from left, Edward Kosinski and Glenn Horowitz allegedly attempted to sell stolen “Hotel California” lyrics back to Eagles frontman Don Henley. Steven Hirsch

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

The three face charges of conspiracy to possess stolen property and various other offenses at the non-jury trial.

Prosecutors alleged that Henley’s rough draft of the 1977 single was the cherry-on-top of a trove of documents — that included at least 15 notepads and 100 other pages of the singer’s handwritten lyrics — taken from his Malibu home.

Raw copies of hits like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town” were also included in the looted documents.

Ex-Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi in court for his trial. Steven Hirsch

In 2005, Horowitz, a mega-star rare books dealer who has brokered sales of Vladimir Nabokov and William Faulkner’s literary estates, had purchased the lyric sheets from Ed Sanders, a renowned writer who had been working on an Eagles’ biography that was never published, for $50,000, prosecutors said.

Horowitz eventually passed off the notepads to Inciardi and Kosinki for $65,000 in 2012 — which led Kosinksi to list four lyric-pages of “Hotel California” on his memorabilia website, Gotta Have Rock and Roll, according to the Manhattan DA’s Office.

Henley — who is expected to testify at trial — caught wind of Kosinksi’s auction and agreed to purchase the allegedly stolen lyrics for $8,500 in May 2012.

The defendants’ collection included 15 notepads and 100 other pages of the singer’s handwritten lyrics that were taken from his Malibu home. Redferns

He thought that was the end of the ordeal — but Henley later discovered handwritten notes of “Life in the Fast Lane” had popped up at auction at Sotheby’s in 2014 — in what prosecutors said was another batch of stolen lyric-pages.

This time, Henley was allegedly offered the chance to purchase the pages for $12,000 but he refused, according to prosecutors. The sale never found a buyer.

Meanwhile, Inciardi and Kosinksi allegedly tried selling through Sotheby’s again — this time in a private sale agreement in January 2016 — but Henley’s lawyers contacted the auction house and told them the lyrics were stolen and demanded their return.

The Eagles star then was given an ultimatum — either move forward with the auction and split the profits or buy them back for $90,000.

According to Assistant District Attorney Nicolas Penfold, the defendants were “criminal actors who tried to profit from property they knew to be stolen.” Steven Hirsch

After refusing, Henley filed police charges and authorities began seizing the alleged stolen manuscripts from Sotheby’s and Kosinski’s New Jersey home.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office filed an indictment in 2022, with all three defendants pleading not guilty.

Horowitz’s attorney, Jonathan Bach, argued Wednesday that his client wasn’t interested in a “get rich scheme” that would throw decades of his work away.

“If Glenn Horowitz thought these pads were stolen, why risk his career for a mere $15,000?” he said, referring to the amount his client netted off the sale of the lyrics.

Kosinski’s attorney, Matthew Laroche, claimed that his client didn’t believe that the lyrics had been stolen when he bought them.

“If a celebrity tells you that the property is theirs and you don’t give it back, then according to the people, you are committing the crime of stolen possession of property,” Laroche said, adding that he was planning to file a motion to dismiss the case at the end of the trial.

Henley is expected to testify at the tial. Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

Stacey Richman, Inciardi’s attorney, said she was hopeful that prosecutors would be the ones “apologizing” to her client by the time the trial wraps.

“This case is a case about context. The people have accused three innocent men of a crime that never occurred,” Richman argued to Judge Curtis Farber, who is presiding over the case.

Prosecutors said that when Henley’s lawyer was trying to track down the lyrics’ trajectory since going missing, Horowitz and Inciardi fabricated tales about how Sanders had come to acquire the documents.

One plot line Horowitz suggested to Sanders was that Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who died in 2016, was the one who gave him the files, according to the DA’s Office.

“If Frey, he, alas is dead and identifying him as the [sic] source would make this go away one and for all. Your thoughts, please?” Horowitz allegedly wrote in a Feb. 22, 2017 email.

Kosinski’s attorney claimed that he didn’t believe the lyrics were stolen when he bought them. Steven Hirsch

In another email, Inciardi suggested Horowitz blame his age for forgetting the origins of how he acquired the lyrics, prosecutors said.

“It was about 35 years ago and my memory is getting foggy!” Inciardi wrote, to which Horowitz responded, “He won’t go for that.”

Irving Azoff, the Eagles’ long-time manager and the first witness to take the stand, testified Wednesday that Henley “felt like he was being extorted” and decided to file a police report in California after the $12,000 demand in 2014.

“[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, the former Ticketmaster CEO, said.

Azoff later revealed that the Eagles shelled out $75,000 total to Sanders for his botched biography, which left them “very disappointed” — in part because Sanders had threatened to write a magazine story about the band’s breakup in 1980.

“Ed had threatened to publish an article about the breakup of the Eagles and this would serve as an accommodation to keep him happy,” he said.

Azoff returns to the stand Thursday. The trial is expected to last at least a week.

Written by SaleemBaloch

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