Eagles’ Don Henley testifies that a ‘poor decision’ led to his 1980 arrest

NEW YORK — Don Henley testified Monday that a “bad decision” led to his arrest in 1980, when authorities said they found drugs and a 16-year-old sex worker suffering from an overdose in his Los Angeles home.

Henley was asked about the arrest while testifying at a criminal trial about what he said was stolen handwritten draft lyrics for “Hotel California” and other Eagles hits.

Henley said he called a sex worker one night in November 1980 because he wanted to “get out of the depression I was in” over the breakup of the superstar band.

“I wanted to forget everything that happened with the band, and I made a bad decision that I regret to this day. I had to live with it for 44 years. I still live with it, in this courtroom. A bad decision,” the 76-year-old testified in a raspy accent.

As in the past, Henley said he did not know the girl’s age until after his arrest and that he used cocaine and slept with the girl but never had sex with her.

“I can’t remember the anatomical details, but I know there was no sex,” he said.

He said he called the fire brigade, who checked the girl’s health, found that everything was fine and left, promising to take care of her. The paramedics, who found her naked, called police, authorities said at the time.

Henley said Monday that she had recovered and was preparing to leave with a friend she had called him when police arrived hours later.

Authorities said at the time that they found cocaine, quaaludes and marijuana in his Los Angeles home.

Henley pleaded no contest in 1981 to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was sentenced to probation and fined $2,500, and he requested a drug education program to have some possession charges dismissed.

Henley was in a New York courtroom Monday to talk about something else: his version of how handwritten pages from the development of the band’s 1976 blockbuster album found their way from his Southern California barn to New York auctions decades later .

But a prosecutor asked about the arrest early on, apparently to do so before lawyers could.

The Grammy-winning singer and drummer and vocal artist rights activist is a key witness for prosecutors at the trial, where three collectibles professionals are charged with charges including criminal possession of stolen property.

They are accused of conspiring to conceal disputed ownership of the documents in an attempt to sell them and stave off Henley’s demand for their return.

The defendants – rare book dealer Glenn Horowitz and rock memorabilia specialists Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski – have pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers say there was nothing illegal about what happened to the lyrics.

This concerns approximately 100 sheets of notebook with the lyrics-in-progress for several songs on the album ‘Hotel California’, including ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, ‘New Kid in Town’ and the title track. which became one of rock’s most enduring hits. Famous for its long guitar solo and enigmatically poetic lyrics, the song is still streamed hundreds of millions of times a year.

The defendants obtained the pages through writer Ed Sanders, who began working with the Eagles in 1979 on a band biography that never appeared in print.

He sold the documents to Horowitz, who sold them to Kosinski and Inciardi. Kosinski runs an auction site for rock ‘n’ roll collectibles; Inciardi was then a curator at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In a 2005 email to Horowitz, Sanders said Henley’s assistant had sent him the documents for the biography project, according to the indictment.

However, Henley testified Monday that he only gave the biographer access to the documents, not possession of them, and that he never wanted them to become public.

They contained, he said, “some of the stupid things we wrote down before we got to the final lyrics of the songs.

“It just wasn’t something that was meant for the public. It was our process. It was something very personal, very private,” he said. “I still wouldn’t show that to anyone.”

He reported them stolen after Inciardi and Kosinski began offering them at various auctions in 2012.

Henley also bought back four pages in 2012 for $8,500. He testified that he hated having to buy back what he believed was his own property. But he said he saw it as “the most practical and fastest” way to get the auction listing, which contained photos of the lyrics, off the Internet.

However, Kosinski’s lawyers have argued that the transaction implicitly recognized his ownership.

Meanwhile, Horowitz and Inciardi began concocting alternate stories about how Sanders obtained the manuscripts, Manhattan prosecutors say.

Among the alternate stories were that they were left backstage at an Eagles concert, that Sanders received them from someone he couldn’t remember, and that he got them from Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, according to emails obtained in the charges are stated. Frey was dead by the time Horowitz broached the latter option in 2017.

Sanders contributed to or signed some of the statements, according to the emails. He has not been charged with any crime and did not respond to messages seeking comment on the case.

Kosinski forwarded one of several statements to Henley’s attorney and then told an auction house that the rocker had “no claim” to the documents, according to the complaint.

Henley has been a fierce advocate for artists’ rights to their work.

He clashed with Congress over a 1999 change to the copyright law that affected musicians’ ability to reclaim ownership of their old recordings from record labels. After complaints from Henley and other musicians, Congress reversed the change the following year.

Meanwhile, Henley helped found a musicians’ rights group that spoke out against online file-sharing platforms in venues from Congress to the Supreme Court. Some popular services of the time allowed users to trade digital recordings for free. The music industry claimed the exchanges violated copyright laws.

Henley and some other major artists cheered a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for record labels to sue file-sharing services.

Henley also sued a Senate candidate for unauthorized use of some of the musician’s solo songs at a campaign site. Another Henley suit hit a clothing company that made t-shirts with a pun on his name. Both cases ended in a settlement and an apology from the defendants.

Henley also testified before Congress in 2020, pushing for updates to copyright law to combat online piracy.