‘Hotel California’ Trial Centers on Handwritten Eagles Lyrics

In the late 1970s, a writer working on a book about the Eagles that would never be published obtained 100-odd pages of notes and lyrics related to the multiplatinum album “Hotel California.”

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

Decades later, according to court documents, the writer, Ed Sanders, sold the trove to a prominent dealer in rare manuscripts who had placed the papers of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe in university libraries and had worked to sell Bob Dylan’s archive for a sum estimated at up to $20 million.

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

On Wednesday, the three men are scheduled to go on trial in an unusual proceeding that may feature testimony from Mr. Henley, who told a grand jury the material was stolen. The trial will be decided by the judge, not a jury.

Before being arrested, Mr. Horowitz had installed himself at the confluence of literature and finance in New York, dealing in huge sums and equally huge reputations.

After working in the rare book room at the Greenwich Village bookstore the Strand, he struck out on his own at 23 and built a flourishing business with offices in Manhattan and East Hampton, N.Y., bringing gallery-style glitz to the musty world of archives and antiquarian volumes.

His sale of Vladimir Nabokov’s literary estate to the New York Public Library in 1992 was widely considered the first archive deal to top $1 million. Those who knew Mr. Horowitz saw him as a bit of a hustler. Rick Gekoski, a book dealer who did business with him, was quoted in 2007 describing him as “a terrific combination of a scholar and a grifter.”

In addition to Mr. Henley, who co-founded the Eagles and was instrumental in crafting the breezy, melodic country-rock sound that sold millions of records, witnesses could include Mr. Sanders, a minor musical celebrity in his own right.

In the mid-1960s he had co-founded the Fugs, a proto-punk folk-rock group based on the Lower East Side that was known for sometimes-literary-sometimes-scatological imagery. Mr. Sanders described himself in 1970 as “a poet, song writer, head Fug, peace creep and yodeler.”

He subsequently 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 account that had included what the interviewer phrased as “sex-and-drugs-type stuff.”

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

In charging Mr. Horowitz and his co-defendants, Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski, prosecutors said that the Eagles material had been “originally stolen” by an author hired to write the band’s biography. Subsequent court filings identified the author as Mr. Sanders.

There is, however, no record of his having been charged in the case or identified as an unindicted co-conspirator. Mr. Sanders could not be reached for comment.

Defense lawyers wrote in one of their filings that if prosecutors did not consider Mr. Sanders a thief, then the material cannot 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 became ‘stolen’ and Sanders committed a larceny once he failed to return the lyrics to the Eagles within a ‘reasonable’ period following the contract’s termination.”

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 has worked as a curator for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Mr. Kosinski, the owner of an online auction website for music memorabilia, bought at least some of the material from Mr. Horowitz.

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

No sales took place, though, and in 2016 the district attorney’s office seized 16 pages that had been left with Sotheby’s as well as 85 pages stored at Mr. Kosinski’s home in New Jersey.

An indictment described what prosecutors said were efforts by Mr. Horowitz to create a bogus history for the material, which included the idea that it had come from the Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who had recently died, rather than from Mr. Henley. Mr. Horowitz wrote to Mr. Sanders in 2017 that identifying Mr. Frey as the source “would make this go away once and for all,” the indictment said.

But, according to the indictment, Mr. Horowitz soon appeared to recognize that claim would be at odds with 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 combed through a bounty of archival Eagles material while “staying at Henley’s place in Malibu.”

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