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Eagles' Don Henley says 'poor decision' led to 1980 arrest after overdose of sex worker

NEW YORK — Don Henley was asked in a New York courtroom Monday about a seamy episode from his past: his 1980 arrest after authorities said they found drugs and a naked 16-year-old girl suffering from an overdose at the Eagles co-founder’s Los Angeles home.

Henley was testifying at an unrelated criminal trial, where three collectibles dealers are charged with conspiring to own and attempt to sell handwritten draft lyrics to “Hotel California” and other Eagles hits without the right to do so. The men have pleaded not guilty.

A prosecutor asked about the singer and drummer’s November 1980 arrest early on, apparently to get ahead of defense lawyers. They previously indicated that they planned to question the 76-year-old about his memory of the era and his lifestyle at the time.

The Eagles' Don Henley testified in court about his 1980 arrest, after authorities found him with drugs and a nude 16-year-old girl suffering from an overdose.
The Eagles' Don Henley testified in court about his 1980 arrest, after authorities found him with drugs and a nude 16-year-old girl suffering from an overdose.

The arrest was briefly reported on at the time, and it gained only a passing mention during the recent #MeToo movement, when many such incidents involving public figures were reexamined.

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On Monday, Henley told the court that he called for a sex worker that night because he “wanted to escape the depression I was in” over the breakup of the superstar band.

“I wanted to forget about everything that was happening with the band, and I made a poor decision which I regret to this day. I’ve had to live with it for 44 years. I’m still living with it today, in this courtroom. Poor decision,” Henley testified in a raspy drawl.

As he did in a 1991 interview with GQ magazine, Henley testified that he didn’t know the girl’s age until after his arrest and that he went to bed with the girl, but never had sex with her.

“I don’t remember the anatomical details, but I know there was no sex,” said Henley, who said they’d done cocaine together and talked for many hours about his band’s breakup and her estrangement from her family.

He said he called firefighters, who checked the girl’s health, found her to be OK and left, with him promising to take care of her. The paramedics, who found her in the nude, called police, authorities said at the time.

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

At the time, authorities said they found cocaine, quaaludes and marijuana at 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 a $2,500 fine, and he requested a drug education program to get some possession charges dismissed.

Henley was asked about the incident on Monday before he gave the court his version of how handwritten pages from the development of the band’s blockbuster 1976 album made their way from his Southern California barn to New York auctions decades later.

'Hotel California' trial: What to know criminal case over handwritten Eagles lyrics

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Eagles' Don Henley testifies on 1980 arrest, sex worker overdose