39Hotel California39 trial begins in Manhattan

'Hotel California' trial begins in Manhattan

In the late 1970s, an author working on a book about the Eagles that was never intended to be published received over 100 pages of notes and lyrics to the multiplatinum album Hotel California.

The papers contained handwritten drafts of lyrics by the band's songwriter and drummer, Don Henley.

According to court documents, writer Ed Sanders sold the treasure decades later to a prominent rare manuscripts dealer who had housed the estates of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe in university libraries and lobbied for the sale of Bob Dylan's archives for an amount estimated at up to $20 million U.S. dollar.

In 2022, prosecutors in Manhattan announced that manuscript dealer Glenn Horowitz and two other men had been charged with conspiring to possess over $1 million in stolen property, including embryonic versions of hits like “Hotel California” and “New Kid in Town.” “ and “Life in the fast lane”.

On Wednesday, the three men went on trial in an unusual trial that may center on the testimony of Mr. Henley, who told a grand jury that the material had been stolen. During opening arguments in the state Supreme Court before Judge Curtis Farber, who will rule on the case, a prosecutor said the drafts, handwritten on yellow legal pads, were priceless artifacts that showed how “deeply committed” Mr. Henley was to songwriting -craft. He carefully revised and refined his language.

“He was a perfectionist,” said prosecutor Nicholas Penfold, adding that Mr Henley “worked on every word, every image and every rhyme”.

Lawyers for all three defendants said their clients did nothing wrong and prosecutors lacked evidence that the notes were ever stolen.

Mr. Horowitz's lawyer, Jonathan Bach, described the Eagles material as a “raw work product” that was not particularly appreciated by anyone associated with the band when Mr. Sanders received it. He added that his client only owned the material for a few years and only made $15,000 from the sale.

“He was not involved in any conspiracy,” Mr. Bach said. “He didn’t commit a crime.”

Before he was arrested, Mr. Horowitz had established himself at the intersection of literature and finance in New York, trading in huge sums and equally great reputation.

After working in the rare books room at The Strand bookstore in Greenwich Village, he struck out on his own at age 23 and built a thriving business with offices in Manhattan and East Hampton, N.Y., dedicated to the musty world of archives and archives Gallery-like shine lent antiquarian volumes.

His sale of Vladimir Nabokov's literary estate to the New York Public Library in 1992 was widely considered the first archival deal worth more than $1 million. Those who knew Mr. Horowitz thought he was a hustler. Rick Gekoski, a bookseller who did business with him, was quoted in 2007 describing him as “a great combination of scholar and con artist.”

In addition to Mr. Henley, co-founder of the Eagles and instrumental in creating the airy, melodic country-rock sound that sold millions of records, Mr. Sanders, a minor musical celebrity in his own right, could be among the witnesses.

In the mid-1960s he co-founded the Fugs, a proto-punk folk rock group based in the Lower East Side that was known for its sometimes literary, sometimes scatological imagery. Mr. Sanders described himself in 1970 as a “poet, songwriter, chief fugue, peace critic and yodeler.”

He then became a successful author with “The Family,” a 1971 book about Charles Manson and his murderous cult. Later in the decade, he signed a contract to write about the Eagles.

Although the book was never published, Mr. Sanders described the manuscript in a 1994 interview with Seconds magazine as an “exhaustive” four-volume report that contained what the interviewer described as “sex and drug-type material.”

“I put a few years into it,” he said at the time. “I was paid very, very well.”

In charging Mr. Horowitz and his co-defendants, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski, prosecutors said the Eagles material was “originally stolen” from an author hired to write the band's biography. Later court filings identified the author as Mr. Sanders.

However, there is no record of him being charged in the case or identified as an unindicted co-conspirator. Mr. Sanders could not be reached for comment.

Defense attorneys wrote in one of their filings that if prosecutors did not consider Mr. Sanders a thief, the material could not be considered stolen and the judge should dismiss the case.

Mr. Sanders acquired the material for a book, prosecutors say in a court filing, but “the lyrics were 'stolen' and Sanders committed theft when he failed to return the lyrics to the Eagles within a 'reasonable' time after the contract was terminated.” “ .”

Prosecutors say Mr. Sanders sold the Eagles' documents to Mr. Horowitz in 2005. The conspiracy, they argue, began seven years later when Mr. Inciardi, who worked as a curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Mr. Kosinski, the owner of an online music memorabilia auction website, bought at least part of the Materials from Mr. Horowitz.

When they again tried to sell some of it, prosecutors say, Mr. Henley told them it had been stolen and demanded it back. Eventually, Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski went with some of the material to the auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's.

However, no sales took place, and in 2016 prosecutors seized 16 pages that remained at Sotheby's as well as 85 pages stored at Mr. Kosinski's home in New Jersey.

An indictment described what prosecutors said were attempts by Mr. Horowitz to create a false narrative for the material, including the belief that it came from recently deceased Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and not Mr. Henley. Mr. Horowitz wrote to Mr. Sanders in 2017 that identifying Mr. Frey as the source “would make this whole thing go away once and for all,” the indictment says.

However, according to the indictment, Mr. Horowitz soon appeared to realize that the claim would contradict a different account that Mr. Sanders had given in an email 12 years earlier.

In that 2005 email, the indictment says, Mr. Sanders wrote to Mr. Horowitz that he had reviewed a wealth of Eagles archival material during his “stay with Henley in Malibu.”