Criminal Case Involving Eagles ‘Hotel California’ Lyrics Goes to Trial

Criminal Case Involving Eagles ‘Hotel California’ Lyrics Goes to Trial

Eagles, Timothy B. Schmit, Vince Gill, Don Henley, Decon Frey and Joe Walsh perform during the Eagles in Concert at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 29, 2017. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Audrey Enjoli

Audrey Enjoli


Updated: 3/13/2024

Handwritten lyrics to songs from the 1976 multi-platinum selling album “Hotel California,” the fifth studio album from the classic rock band the Eagles, are at the center of a peculiar criminal case that got underway in a New York courtroom on Wednesday.
The three defendants—rare-books dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi, and memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski—are accused of conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property, which includes 13 pages of allegedly stolen draft lyrics to the Eagles’ hit song “Hotel California,” valued at more than $1 million, according to court documents.
Mr. Horowitz is also charged with hindering prosecution. The defendants have pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

The Case of the Allegedly Stolen Lyrics

In 2018, the Recording Industry Association of America listed the Eagles’ “Hotel California” album as the “third best-selling album of all-time,” having sold 26 million copies.
According to court documents, the roughly 100 pages of allegedly stolen property included developmental lyrics to other “Hotel California” hit tracks like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town.”
The lyrics were written by the Eagles’ founding member, Don Henley—the band’s drummer and co-lead vocalist—with input from Glenn Frey. Mr. Frey, a founding member and frontman of the band, passed away in January 2016 from complications stemming from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia.
The pages were reportedly first obtained in the 1970s by Ed Sanders—a poet and writer who was working on a biography at the time about the band’s 1980 breakup. The book was ultimately never published, and the Eagles later reunited in 1994 for their “Hell Freezes Over Tour.”
In 2005, Mr. Sanders, who also co-founded the underground folk-rock music group the Fugs, sold the manuscripts to Mr. Horowitz, who subsequently sold them to Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski.
In an April 2005 email that was recounted during the indictment, Mr. Sanders wrote that he had come by the papers when he was “staying at Henley’s place in Malibu.” He stated that “he compiled a box of files” he wanted for the biography and that Mr. Henley’s assistant mailed the papers to him. Mr. Sanders noted that the drummer “might conceivably be upset” if he learned the manuscripts were sold. He wrote, “So, maybe we don’t want to sell them at all?”
Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski later tried to sell the documents. In 2012, Mr. Henley paid $8,500 for “original handwritten lyrics for the Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ written in Don Henley’s hand” in an attempt to get the swath of papers back, according to court documents. Mr. Henley subsequently contacted authorities and reported the manuscripts as stolen.
Mr. Sanders is not charged in the case. The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Sanders for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Criminal Case Goes to Trial

The long-awaited trial finally kicked off on Feb. 21 following the defendants’ indictment in July 2022. Opening statements were read in the New York State Supreme Court before Justice Curtis Farber, who would determine the verdict after the defendants decided to forego a jury in favor of a bench trial.
The prosecution alleges that the defendants knew the papers were stolen and that they attempted to sell them by lying to potential buyers and auction houses about how the documents were obtained. They also allege that Mr. Horowitz gave varying accounts of how Mr. Sanders originally came by the documents.
In a 2017 email from Mr. Horowitz to Mr. Sanders, recounted in the indictment, the former wrote: “I think the time has come to identify the person who gave you tablet [sic]. 40 plus years have elapsed. I don’t think there’s any downside to naming the source of the papers but I worry that if we don’t this will drag on indefinitely.”
He continued: “In an earlier communication you once suggested Frey was the person from whom you got the document. If Frey, he, alas, is dead and identifying him as the the [sic] source would make this go away once and for all.”
During his opening remarks, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Penfold said, “The defendants were not businessmen acting in good faith, but criminal actors” when they allegedly attempted to sell the manuscripts.
The prosecutor also referenced Mr. Sander’s 2005 email, stating that “it cast significant doubt on whether Sanders actually owned Henley’s lyric notes or had the right to sell them.”
The defendants’ lawyers have denied any wrongdoing from their clients. Mr. Horowitz’s lawyer, Jonathan Bach, said, “He was not involved in any conspiracy,” and “he did not commit any crime,” per The New York Times.
The Eagles is currently conducting its farewell tour, “The Long Goodbye,” which kicked off in the fall of 2023. Mr. Henley is expected to take the stand and testify before the court in the coming weeks, as reported by AP.
Audrey Enjoli

Audrey Enjoli


Audrey is a freelance entertainment reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California. She is a seasoned writer and editor whose work has appeared in Deseret News, Evie Magazine, and Yahoo Entertainment, among others. She holds a B.A. from the University of Central Florida where she double majored in broadcast journalism and political science.

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