Manhattan DA drops ‘Hotel California’ lyrics case amid accusations key evidence withheld

NEW YORK -- The Manhattan district attorney’s office suddenly dropped conspiracy charges Wednesday against three men accused of criminally possessing 100 pages of Eagles frontman Don Henley‘s handwritten notes and lyrics to the 1976 album “Hotel California” amid new evidence a judge said the rock star and his lawyers hid from the defense and prosecutors.

Prosecutors’ decision to drop the case, which has been on trial in Manhattan Criminal Court since February, came after Henley waived attorney-client privilege and prosecutors gained access to thousands of pages of previously undisclosed material.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Curtis Farber said Henley and his lawyers made “jarringly late disclosures” that showed they sought to “obfuscate and hide information that they believed would be damaging to their position that the lyric sheets were stolen” and shield themselves from a thorough cross-examination.

“It is additionally troubling to this court that [prosecutors] were apparently manipulated. However, such manipulation was the result of passive complicity in allowing this situation to develop,” Farber said.

“Albeit late, I commend the prosecution for refusing to allow itself or the courts to be further manipulated for the benefit of anyone’s personal gain. District Attorney Bragg and the prosecutorial team here, while eating a slice of humble pie, are displaying the highest level of integrity in moving to dismiss the charges. I am impressed.”

A spokesman for DA Alvin Bragg declined to comment on the now-sealed case.

Henley reported the sheets stolen in 2012 after learning they were up for auction by rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz and rock memorabilia specialists Craig Inciardi and Edward Kosinski, who were on trial. They purchased them from Ed Sanders, a writer who worked with the Eagles on a never-published band biography.

The position presented by Henley’s lawyers before the evidence came to light, “in the words of the judge, was manipulated and strategic and designed to present a one sided view,” Horowitz’s lawyer Jonathan Bach said Wednesday.

“In addition to raising doubt about the testimony that these lawyer witnesses gave, along with their clients, the newly produced evidence corroborated fundamental defense points about why they were not guilty and vindicated,” Bach added.

“The district attorney’s office finally made the right decision in dropping it.”

When he took the stand last week, Henley disputed that he willingly gave the sheets to Sanders and insisted they were never meant to be shared with the public.

“It doesn’t matter if I drove a U-Haul truck and dumped them at his front door,” he said from the witness stand. “He had no right to keep them or to sell them. I have tapes where he admits he knew he shouldn’t have kept them.”