Don Henley on the stand: I believed that my property was stolen

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Eagles co-founder and member Don Henley has spent over 10 years trying to get back hundreds of legal pad pages with his handwritten lyrics for several of the band’s 1970s hits, including “Hotel California.” At long last the trial began last week, with three “collectibles experts” as defendants charged with conspiracy to criminally possess stolen property and scheming to conceal the property’s disputed ownership. What they’re not charged with, is actually stealing the lyrics pages, and the reason why they’re not is where this case takes a turn on a dark desert highway. That original (alleged) crime dates back to 1979 when a writer was contracted to write a book on the band (which was never published), and given access to materials as research. This week Henley took the stand at “Courthouse New York” where he testified that the defendants knew they were selling stolen property. Then the defense cross examined Henley to challenge his claim that a) the defendants knew the pages were stolen, and b) that the pages were even stolen to begin with. Confused? Take it easy, don’t even try to understand.

Don Henley takes the stand: After spending Monday telling the New York court about topics ranging from Eagles songwriting to his past personal troubles, the Eagles co-founder [Henley] underwent further questioning Tuesday from lawyers for three collectibles experts who are on trial. Henley was asked about the writing of “Hotel California” and how he didn’t notice for decades that the handwritten pages were missing. He was also queried about his past cocaine use — retorting that he was no “drug-filled zombie” — and even about a $96 limousine bill from 1973. He continued to insist that he never voluntarily parted with handwritten sheets from work, including the Eagles’ 1976 release “Hotel California,” the third-best-selling album ever in the U.S. “I believed that my property was stolen,” Henley said.

The man who “stole” the pages isn’t on trial: The defendants — Edward Kosinski, Craig Inciardi and Glenn Horowitz — are charged with scheming to conceal the lyrics pages’ disputed ownership and sell them despite knowing that Henley claimed they had no right. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to criminally possess stolen property. They are not accused of actually stealing the roughly 100 legal-pad sheets. Horowitz bought them in 2005 from writer Ed Sanders, who had worked with the Eagles decades earlier on a band biography that never got published. Horowitz later sold the documents to Inciardi and Kosinski, who then started putting pages up for auction in 2012. Sanders isn’t charged with any crime. He hasn’t responded to messages about the case. Henley bought back four pages of “Hotel California” song lyrics from Kosinski and Inciardi in 2012. He also went to authorities then, and again when more pages — some from the hit “Life in the Fast Lane” — turned up for sale in 2014 and 2016.

Recollections may vary… At the trial, Henley has testified that Sanders was allowed to view the pages, and nothing more. Henley said Monday that he didn’t give permission for the “very personal, very private” lyrics drafts to be removed from his property in Malibu, California, though he acknowledged that he didn’t recall the entirety of his conversations with the writer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In a tape of a 1980 phone call that was played in court, Henley said he’d “try to dig through” his lyrics drafts in order to aid Sanders’ book. But Henley said Tuesday that “there is no tape or document anywhere where I say, ‘Mr. Sanders, you’re free to keep these items in perpetuity, and you’re free to sell them.’”

But contracts are binding? Sanders’ 1979 book contract with the Eagles said that material they provided him was their property. Defense lawyers have suggested that Henley is making a criminal accusation out of a clause in a contract that they say Kosinski, Inciardi and Horowitz knew nothing about. “The idea that the items were stolen from your barn was perhaps an overstatement, fair to say?” defense attorney Stacey Richman asked Henley. He replied that he didn’t know. The defense also has sought to show that the Eagles provided Sanders with copious insider material. … The defense also has questioned how clearly the rock star remembers whatever he told Sanders during the book project, which spanned a tumultuous and fast-living time for Henley.

[From CBS News]

I understand that the broad function of the defense is to raise reasonable doubt. After all I was a defense attorney myself (in high school mock trial). But this tactic of challenging whether Ed Sanders — who, again, is not charged here — stole the pages or not, it just seems to undercut the main contention of the defendants, no? Isn’t their main point that they had no knowledge of the work being stolen? How much does saying, “But even if they did!” make it seem like, yeah, they knew the ownership was sketchy? (Which I think they totally knew.) But ok let’s say I’m wrong about that (I know, ha!), then I still struggle with the defense’s next argument. “Your honor, it’s outrageous of the plaintiff to sue over a breach in the contract!” How dare he use a legal document that both parties signed to back up his claim that what was spelled out in the document has been violated!

And of course the biggest question hanging over these proceedings is… why isn’t Ed Sanders charged?! But more than an answer to that question, I’m praying that this trial comes to a swift resolution. Not for Henley’s sake, because I fear that “Hotel California” may never stop playing on a loop in my head. This could be heaven or this could be hell.

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18 Responses to “Don Henley on the stand: I believed that my property was stolen”

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  1. Pinkosaurus says:

    I’m guessing Sanders isn’t charged because he is either not fit for trial or he’s cooperating with the prosecution. He may show up in court at some point. I don’t know how the defense tries to prove what was communicated between Sanders and the defendants without bringing in Sanders.

    • Bumblebee says:

      They have emails of of these guys sending Sanders ‘ideas’ of where he got those pages from. One he rejected outright. Another he was reluctant about. It sounds like from the emails they were really pushing him to do something he didn’t want to.

    • MissMarirose says:

      Henley has gotten other lyrics withdrawn from auction before, saying that they were stolen. So, these guys, one of whom used to be a curator at the R&R HoF, should have known that they were stolen – or at least contacted Henley to be sure of their status. That they didn’t put them up for open auction, nor contact Henley, I think strongly suggests they knew something was hinky.

  2. equality says:

    The fact that they sat on them for years before publicly selling makes it seem that they knew and were waiting until the statute of limitations was up.

  3. Kokiri says:

    I love the Eagles
    I love Don Henley.

    Boys of Summer fluctuates as my #1 ever song. It’s always between that, & True Faith.

    • TOM says:

      Grew up and went to school in Northern California, retired to SoCal. “Hotel California” evokes nothing for me. HOWEVER,“Boys of Summer” – Eagles +“Venice Bitch” – Lana Delray + Almost any Beach Boys = central Coast to Baja California. I hope Henley prevails.

    • Truthiness says:

      Boys of Summer is amazing.

  4. Sum says:

    This case gives writers and memorabilia collectors a bad name. The defense is calling Don Henley “drug fueled and addled”. If that’s true than it actually points to his notepads being stolen.

    How about they just say- everyone forgot about the notepads – and the collectors give them back.
    This is such a parasitic case. The writer should’ve went to Henley and said -it looks like the biography isn’t coming out. Here is your notebooks, pay me for storage.

  5. Nanea says:

    Love your use of Eagles lyrics, Kismet.

    If the defendents are specialized in selling collectibles, they should know about verification procedures.

    It seems they hoped to get away with it, even after Don Henley contacted the police so long ago.

  6. Ariel says:

    As an eagles fan, I appreciate the lyric references in the article.
    And Henley, at least by public persona is a pretty serious guy, not as easy mark.
    I hope he wins.

    Also, I miss Glenn Frey.❤️

  7. Bumblebee says:

    The first famous auction house said no, we’re not selling that, after the verification fell through and they tried to get the 2nd auction house to lie to clients. Just that alone is guilty.

  8. Concern Fae says:

    Man, the lawyer for the Eagles effed up writing that original contract. Pretty clear that it meant the author’s notes and research, but vague enough that this guy has basically gotten away with straight up stealing material he had access to.

  9. Lizzie Bennett says:

    Had to do a double take at the pic of Don. Initially thought it was President Biden

    • Treehugger says:

      Lizzie Bennett, me too! And I worked with Don, I’ve just never seen him without his hair dyed. The resemblance to Biden in these recent photos is uncanny!

  10. Spike says:

    More concerning is the fact (brought up in the trial) that the LAPD were called when a 16 year old prostitute OD’d ar his house. He told GQ thar it was an error in judgment.

    This has been an open secret for decades.

    • Jaded says:

      Henley’s not a nice guy and he did do massive amounts of coke back in the day, especially when he was with Stevie Nicks. He blamed his roadies for bringing the 16 year old to his party as well as another young girl who was 15 at the time and stoned out of her mind. I have first-hand knowledge of some of the sh*t he did and it’s not pretty.

  11. Renee' says:

    I love the way this post this written with the play on words of Eagles lyrics. Great job Kismet!

  12. Zodie says:

    I believe Henley killed a teenage girl, so…