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Three men including the curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have been accused of conspiring to sell stolen lyrics from the Eagles.
During court on Tuesday, former Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Director of Acquisitions Craig Inciardi, 58, rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz, 66, and rock auctioneer Edward Kosinski, 59, were charged in connection with allegedly possessing stolen lyrics by Don Henley, one of the Eagles' co-founders, multiple outlets including Rolling Stone, the Associated Press and The Washington Post reported. All three men claim they're innocent.
The allegedly stolen pages featured over 100 pages of Henley's handwritten notes that included lyrics from the rock band's hits "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane," according to Rolling Stone. New York officials estimate the documents are worth more than $1 million.
Henley, 74, claimed in court documents obtained by the Post that the manuscripts were stolen from him in the 1970s by a writer who was working on a never-published book about the band at the time. The writer — not identified by name in the indictment — sold them to Horowitz in 2005, who then sold them to Inciardi and Kosinski, officials alleged.
The Eagles frontman, upon learning that Inciardi and Kosinki were making efforts to sell the long-lost documents to auction houses, tried to get them back, the Post reported — telling the men they were stolen and even taking out police reports. But according to the indictment, the men allegedly tried to "coerce" Henley into buying back his property.
"They made up stories about the origin of the documents and their right to possess them so they could turn a profit," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. said according to the AP, who also reported that the indictment stated that Kosinski sold some "Hotel California" lyric sheets to Henley for $8,500.
While trying to sell the papers to auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's, the Post reported, the three defendants "responded by engaging in a years-long campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts," prosecutors alleged — claiming the trio didn't make "any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership."
The writer, according to the Post, has changed his story many times about how he acquired the papers. In 2012 he recalled "finding the material discarded in a dressing room backstage at an Eagles concert," but later said Henley's assistant sent them to him after a stay at the musician's Malibu home. His story changed again in 2016, when he said Eagles frontman Glenn Frey gave him the papers. (Frey died in January 2016, which prosecutors have noted convenient to the writer's story as the singer cannot dispute his account.)
The DA's office began their investigation in 2016, according to the Post and "beginning in December 2016, began executing search warrants to retrieve the materials."
The three men were charged with one count of conspiracy in the fourth degree, which carries up to a four-year prison sentence, and first degree counts of criminal possession, Rolling Stone reported. Horowitz also faces two additional counts of hindering prosecution.
All three pled not guilty, the Post reported. They were released without bail.
Antonia Apps, who represents Kosinski, claims her client is innocent. "Despite six years of investigating the case, the DA hasn't included a single factual allegation in the indictment showing that my client did anything wrong," she said in a statement to AP, calling the charges "the weakest criminal case I have seen in my entire career."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame told PEOPLE Inciardi has been suspended from his role at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"We have learned that a New York County grand jury has indicted a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame employee with curator responsibilities, Craig Inciardi. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is not named in the indictment nor does the alleged conduct involve the RockHall's business, collection, or archives," they said in a statement.
"When we became aware of this matter, we suspended the employee and retained experienced outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. We take very seriously the responsibility to protect the integrity of our collection and the artists it represents and maintain consistent and stringent controls. We do not tolerate conduct that compromises the integrity of our collection or our institution. The employee remains on leave pending resolution of our investigation. As this is an ongoing matter not involving the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we will have no further comment."
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns
Irving Azoff, manager for the band, said they are pleased with the indictments in a statement to PEOPLE. "This action exposes the truth about music memorabilia sales of highly personal, stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy. No one has the right to sell illegally obtained property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history," he said.
"These handwritten lyrics are an integral part of the legacy Don Henley has created over the course of his 50-plus-year career," he added. "We look forward to the return of Don's property, for him and his family to enjoy and preserve for posterity."
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Manhattan District Attorney Bragg, Jr. also released a statement on the case. "New York is a world-class hub for art and culture, and those who deal cultural artifacts must scrupulously follow the law. There is no room for those who would seek to ignore the basic expectations of fair dealing and undermine the public's confidence and trust in our cultural trade for their own ends," said Bragg.
"These defendants attempted to keep and sell these unique and valuable manuscripts, despite knowing they had no right to do so. They made up stories about the origin of the documents and their right to possess them so they could turn a profit."