Don Henley says lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ and other Eagles songs were always his sole property

NEW YORK — The lyrics to “Hotel California” and other classic Eagles songs should never have ended up at auction, Don Henley said in court Wednesday.

β€œI always knew that those texts were my property. I have never given them as gifts or given them to anyone to keep or sell,” the Eagles co-founder said during the last of three days of testimony at the trial of three collectibles experts accused of a scheme to steal about 100 handwritten pages with the text sell.

Before the judge are rare bookseller Glenn Horowitz and rock memorabilia connoisseurs Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski. Prosecutors say the three circulated false stories about the ownership history of the documents in an attempt to sell them and counter Henley’s demands against them.

Kosinski, Inciardi and Horowitz have pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to criminally possess stolen property.

Defense attorneys say the men rightfully possessed and were free to sell the documents, which they obtained through a writer who worked on a never-published Eagles biography decades ago.

The lyric sheets document the formation of a series of 1970s rock hits, many of which come from one of the best-selling albums of all time: the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”

The case centers on how the pages containing the notebook made their way from Henley’s shed in Southern California to the biographer’s home in New York’s Hudson Valley, and then to the defendants in New York City.

The defense argues that Henley gave the drafts to the writer, Ed Sanders. Henley says he invited Sanders to review the pages for research, but the writer was obliged to give them up.

In a series of rapid-fire questions, prosecutor Aaron Ginandes asked Henley who owned the papers at every stage, from the time he bought the pads at a Los Angeles stationery store to the time they turned up at auction.

β€œI did,” Henley replied each time.

Sanders is not charged with any crime and has not responded to messages seeking comment on the case. He sold the pages to Horowitz. Inciardi and Kosinski purchased them from the bookseller and began offering some sheets for auction in 2012.

While the lawsuit turns over the lyrics, the fate of another set of pages β€” Sanders’ decades-old biography manuscript β€” has come up repeatedly as prosecutors and defense attorneys investigate his interactions with Henley, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and Eagles representatives.

Work on the authorized book began in 1979 and included the band’s breakup the following year. (The Eagles regrouped in 1994.)

Henley testified earlier this week that he was disappointed with a 100-page first draft of the manuscript from 1980. Revisions apparently softened his opinion somewhat.

In 1983, he wrote to Sanders that the final draft β€œgoes well and is very humorous until the end,” according to a letter shown in court on Wednesday.

But the letter went on to ponder whether it might be better for Henley and Frey to “send each other these bitter pages and let the book end on a slightly softer note?”

β€œI wonder how these comments will age,” Henley wrote. β€œStill, I think the book has merit and should be published.”

That has never been the case. Eagles manager Irving Azoff testified last week that publishers made no offers, that the book was never approved by the band and that he believed Frey ultimately rejected the project. Frey died in 2016.

The trial is expected to last weeks with other witnesses.

Henley, meanwhile, returns to the road. The Eagles’ next show is Friday in Hollywood, Florida.