Entertainment & Sports Law

Lawyers, witnesses used privilege to 'obfuscate and hide information' in Eagles stolen-lyrics trial, judge says

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Eagles front man Don Henley performs on the “History of the Eagles” tour at the Forum, on Jan. 15, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/The Associated Press)

A judge in New York City has tossed charges of conspiring to possess stolen property—namely, Eagles handwritten lyrics—after band front man Don Henley waived attorney-client privilege during the trial, leading to late disclosure of 6,000 pages of material, some of which could be helpful to the defense.

Judge Curtis Farber of the trial-level New York Supreme Court dismissed the charges Wednesday against rare books dealer Glenn Horowitz and two others at the request of prosecutors, who acknowledged that the disclosure included relevant information.

Farber tossed the case after testimony by Henley, Eagles manager Irving Azoff and lawyers from Manatt Phelps & Phillips and Loeb & Loeb, Law360 reports.

They had testified that a biographer stole the notes from Henley’s barn in the 1970s. Emails and other material released after the privilege waiver contradicted that version of events, according to the publication.

“Among other things,” Law360 reported, “the emails show Henley and his lawyers acknowledging the possibility that the Eagles may have voluntarily given [the biographer] the lyric notes pursuant to a 1979 contract for him to author a never-published biography of the band. Henley’s team also had possession of Sanders’ original biography manuscript but never produced it, according to the new evidence.”

Besides Law360, other publications with coverage include Rolling Stone, the New York Post, the Associated Press, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times. The other coverage does not mention the names of the law firms.

“It is now clear,” Farber said, that Henley, Azoff and “and their lawyers, two of which also shielded themselves from thorough and complete cross-examination by relying on Mr. Henley’s invocation [of privilege], shielded themselves from thorough and complete cross-examination,” according to Rolling Stone.

Those four witnesses, Farber said, “used the privilege to obfuscate and hide information that they believed would be damaging to their position that the lyric sheets were stolen. This is a basic confrontation violation.”

Rolling Stone and the other publications did not identify which lawyers had testified.

Farber said the disclosure was “jarringly late.” Prosecutors were “eating a slice of humble pie,” Farber said, but they were also “displaying the highest level of integrity in moving to dismiss the charges.”

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that the biographer sold the notes to Horowitz, who sold them to the other two defendants, according to the New York Times.

Loeb & Loeb said in a statement cited by the AP that it respects the attorney-client privilege decisions and is “confident that its attorneys acted in accordance with their professional and ethical responsibilities.”

Spokespeople for Manatt Phelps & Phillips and Loeb & Loeb did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s requests for comment, made respectively in a voicemail and an email.

Henley’s new lawyer, Daniel M. Petrocelli, told Rolling Stone and Law360 that Henley “has once again been victimized by this unjust outcome. He will pursue all his rights in the civil courts.”

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