Don Henley wraps testimony during 1st week of trial. A look at the unusual case.

Don Henley completed his testimony in New York on Wednesday in the Hotel California lyrics trial. Henley, one of the founding members of the Eagles, claims approximately 100 legal-pad sheets of handwritten notes used to craft the iconic 1976 album were stolen before unscrupulously popping up at auctions. It’s an unusual criminal case in which three collectibles dealers are on trial.

Get up to speed now.

What happened?

In 2022, three individuals were charged with possessing stolen handwritten notes for the Eagles album Hotel California. The papers contained Henley’s eventual lyrics for songs like “Hotel California,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town.” Hotel California is the third-best-selling album of all time.

Who is charged?

Glenn Horowitz, a rare book dealer, and rock memorabilia specialists Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski. They’ve all pleaded not guilty.

What did they do?

“Despite knowing that the materials were stolen, the defendants attempted to sell the manuscripts, manufactured false provenance, and lied to auction houses, potential buyers, and law enforcement about the origin of the material,” the Manhattan District Attorney’s office told Yahoo Entertainment in a 2022 press release.

How much are the manuscripts worth?

They are valued at more than $1 million, per the Manhattan D.A.

Why is this trial rare?

It’s not unusual for there to be ownership disputes over valuable items, but they’re typically handled privately or in civil cases.

How did the men come in possession of the material?

The manuscripts were allegedly stolen in the late 1970’s by author Ed Sanders, who had been hired to write a biography of the Eagles. The biographer is said to have sold the manuscripts to Horowitz in 2005, who then sold them to Inciardi and Kosinski. (Sanders has not been charged with a crime.) How Sanders got the notes is essentially the question at the center of the case.

How did Henley find out they were missing?

Inciardi and Kosinski put some pages of the song “Hotel California” up for auction in 2012. Henley contacted authorities and bought back some draft lyrics, according to the Associated Press. Pages from “Life in the Fast Lane” popped up on the auction market in 2014 and 2016, so Henley went to the police again. When authorities questioned the three defendants, they had varying accounts of how Sanders gained possession of the notepad.

What does Henley say happened?

In court this week, Henley testified that while he gave Sanders access to his handwritten notes, he never gave the writer permanent possession.

“It just wasn’t something that was for public viewing. It was our process. It was something very personal, very private,” he said, per the AP. “I still wouldn’t show that to anybody.”

Henley, 76, is the prosecution’s star witness. He testified for three days. Under cross-examination, the musician admitted he didn’t fully remember all of his conversations with Sanders, but said the point is moot.

“You know what? It doesn’t matter if I drove a U-Haul truck across country and dumped them at his front door,” Henley said on the stand. “He had no right to keep them or to sell them.”

What is the defense’s argument?

The defense maintains the men rightfully owned the material and therefore were free to sell the papers. “We believe that Mr. Henley voluntarily provided the lyrics to Mr. Sanders,” attorney Scott Edelman, who represents Kosinki, declared in court last week, according to the AP.

Why was Henley’s 1980 arrest brought up?

The defense indicated they plan to test Henley’s memory around the time the handwritten notes, among other material, were turned over to Sanders for the book decades ago. On Monday, Henley recounted an incident in 1980 when an underage sex worker overdosed at his home around the time the Eagles broke up. Henley said he called a sex worker to his home because he was depressed.

“I wanted to forget about everything that was happening with the band, and I made a poor decision which I regret to this day. I’ve had to live with it for 44 years. I’m still living with it today, in this courtroom. Poor decision,” Henley said, according to USA Today. He admitted to doing cocaine with the girl but said he didn’t know her age. (He ultimately pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to probation.)

The prosecution seemingly asked about the incident to get ahead of the defense team’s intention to bring it up in court.

What happens next?

The trial is expected to last for weeks. The defendants opted to forgo a jury trial. The verdict will ultimately be decided by Judge Curtis Farber.

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