In the late 1970s, as Southern California’s Eagles sailed into rock superstardom, one of the band’s main songwriters generated reams of handwritten lyrics and notes — among them, the words to such FM-radio staples as “Hotel California.”
And then, the papers vanished.
Nearly five decades later, Glenn Horowitz, a New York rare-book dealer, and two other men were charged on Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan with conspiring to sell about 100 pages of the stolen notes written by the songwriter, Don Henley, lying to law enforcement authorities and fabricating stories about the provenance of the papers, which are valued at around $1 million.
“This action exposes the truth about music memorabilia sales of highly personal, stolen items hidden behind a facade of legitimacy,” Irving Azoff, Mr. Henley’s manager, said. “No one has the right to sell illegally obtained property or profit from the outright theft of irreplaceable pieces of musical history.”
Those charged include Mr. Horowitz, 66, who helped create a frothy market in writers’ archives, curating filing cabinets’ worth of manuscripts, drafts, letters and ephemera into a coherent and sellable whole. He placed the papers of Norman Mailer, Gabriel García Márquez, Tom Wolfe, Alice Walker and others in leading university libraries, and brokered major deals with musicians: In 2016, he sold Bob Dylan’s vast archive to two institutions in Oklahoma for a sum estimated to be as high as $20 million.
Lawyers for Mr. Horowitz and the other defendants, Craig Inciardi, 58, and Edward Kosinski, 59, denied the charges.
“The D.A.’s office alleges criminality where none exists and unfairly tarnishes the reputations of well-respected professionals,” the lawyers said in a statement. “These men are innocent.”
A lawyer for Mr. Inciardi added that the men had turned themselves in and had been released on their own recognizance.
The indictment is a stunning turn for Mr. Horowitz, a mainstay of New York City’s rare book and manuscript market who is known for mixing a keen business sense with deep literary learning and a showman’s flair.
A visit to his Midtown Manhattan office with its terrace overlooking the Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden might offer a glimpse of a choice historical letter or a jaw-dropping literary artifact — accompanied by a comment that the viewing was off the record.
“As Glenn himself says, he’s a terrific combination of a scholar and a grifter,” Rick Gekoski, a book dealer in London who regularly did business with Horowitz, told The New York Times in 2007.
The notes at the heart of the case announced on Tuesday are the lyrical spine of what would become one of the most recognizable, ubiquitous albums of the 1970s. The Eagles made music that drew on blues and country rock but that was suffused with the particular malaise of Southern California in its post-hippie, pre-punk period.
Half a century since its 1976 release, the “Hotel California” album and Mr. Henley’s gnomic musings — “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” — have fueled unending speculation among fans about the lyrics’ meaning. The band’s continuous world tour, on which it plays the album front to back with a full orchestra, has filled arenas for more than two years.
Mr. Horowitz obtained Mr. Henley’s notes in 2005, according to a news release from Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney. The manuscripts were originally stolen from the songwriter in the late 1970s by a writer working on a book about the band, the release said. The notes include handwritten lyrics to “Hotel California,” the albums’s title track.
Mr. Henley became aware of the notes’ reappearance when Mr. Horowitz sold them to Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski, fellow collectors who tried to market them further. According to the district attorney’s office, Mr. Henley filed police reports and told the collectors the notes were stolen.
“Rather than making any effort to ensure they actually had rightful ownership, the defendants responded by engaging in a yearslong campaign to prevent Henley from recovering the manuscripts,” the district attorney’s release said.
The men sought to launder the notes through Sotheby’s auction houses and engaged in a five-year effort to hide where the documents had come from, the district attorney’s office said. Mr. Horowitz later tried to leverage the 2016 death of Glenn Frey, the Eagles’ other frontman, as possible cover, suggesting that Mr. Frey was the initial source for the papers, according to the news release.
Mr. Frey “alas, is dead, and identifying him as the source would make this go away once and for all,” Mr. Horowitz said in a fabricated statement of provenance after the notes were seized by investigators from a Sotheby’s warehouse, the district attorney’s office said.
Mr. Horowitz was charged with conspiracy, attempted criminal possession of stolen property and hindering prosecution. Mr. Inciardi and Mr. Kosinski were charged with possessing stolen property and conspiracy.
Alex Traub and Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting.