Case against three men on trial over ‘stolen’ Hotel California lyrics dropped

6 March 2024, 18:54

Hotel California Lyrics Trial
Hotel California Lyrics Trial. Picture: PA

The 1976 album Hotel California by the Eagles ranks as the third-biggest seller of all time in the US.

New York prosecutors have dropped a criminal case against three men who were on trial accused of conspiring to possess hand-written lyrics to Hotel California and other Eagles hits.

Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Aaron Ginandes informed the judge on Wednesday that prosecutors would no longer proceed with the case, citing newly available emails that defence lawyers said raised questions about the trial’s fairness.

The trial had been under way since late February.

“The people concede that dismissal is appropriate in this case,” Mr Ginandes said.

Hotel California Lyrics Trial
Memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski has been cleared (Seth Wenig/AP)

The raft of communications emerged only when Eagles star Don Henley apparently decided last week to waive attorney-client privilege, after he and other prosecution witnesses had already testified.

The defence argued that the new disclosures raised questions that they had not been able to ask.

“Witnesses and their lawyers” used attorney-client privilege “to obfuscate and hide information that they believed would be damaging”, Judge Curtis Farber said in dismissing the case.

The case centred on roughly 100 pages of legal-pad pages from the creation of a classic rock colossus.

The 1976 album Hotel California ranks as the third-biggest seller of all time in the US, in no small part on the strength of its title track about a place where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

The accused had been three well-established figures in the collectibles world – rare books dealer Glenn Horowitz, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi and rock memorabilia seller Edward Kosinski.

Hotel California Lyrics Trial
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curator Craig Inciardi denied the charges (Seth Wenig/AP)

Prosecutors said the men knew the pages had a dubious chain of ownership but peddled them anyway, scheming to fabricate a provenance that would pass muster with auction houses and stave off demands to return the documents to Eagles co-founder Don Henley.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to criminally possess stolen property. Through their lawyers, the men contended that they were rightful owners of pages that were not stolen by anyone.

The defence maintained that Mr Henley gave the documents decades ago to a writer who worked on a never-published Eagles biography and later sold the handwritten sheets to Mr Horowitz.

He, in turn, sold them to Mr Inciardi and Mr Kosinski, who started putting some of the pages up for auction in 2012.

Mr Henley, who realised they were missing only when they showed up for sale, reported them stolen.

He testified at the trial that he let the writer pore through the documents for research but “never gifted them or gave them to anybody to keep or sell”.

The writer was not charged with any crime did not give evidence.

“The next step is building back our reputations,” Mr Inciardi said in a written statement after the dismissal. Leaving court, Mr Kosinski said only that he felt “very good” about the case’s end.

Hotel California Lyrics Trial
Rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz hugged family members (Seth Wenig/AP)

Mr Horowitz hugged tearful family members, then left court without commenting. One of his lawyers, Jonathan Bach, said the case “should never have been brought”.

A lawyer for Mr Henley signalled that he is not done with the matter.

“As the victim in this case, Mr Henley has once again been victimised by this unjust outcome,” attorney Dan Petrocelli said in a statement. “He will pursue all his rights in the civil courts.”

One of Mr Kosinski’s lawyers, Scott Edelman, said they were also going to “evaluate next steps”.

“The district attorney in this case got blinded by the fame and fortune of a celebrity,” Mr Edelman said outside court. “And that blinded them to the information that they weren’t being given.”

By Press Association

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