A sound engineer to Ray Charles who is charged with stealing 300 original master recordings had become embroiled in a dispute with the singer’s estate, it emerged today.
Terry Howard, aged 48, is being held in police custody after the tapes, worth €6m were seized from his home.
A judge has reduced his bail and scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 28.
Howard worked with Charles for two decades and won three Grammys for his work on the late singer’s final album Genius Loves Company.
Police chiefs said he had fallen out with the leadership of Ray Charles Enterprises last March.
Howard’s lawyer, Steven Crom, said the dispute led to “someone at Ray Charles Enterprises wanting Howard to be less close to things.
“These are recordings that he contractually and logically had every right to have in his possession,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
He claimed recording engineers often work at home.
Detective Donald Hrycyk of Los Angeles police, said the tapes were so fragile they should have been stored in climate-controlled rooms.
“When we got to them, some of them were moulding,” he said.
He claimed the stacks of music seized included old reel-to-reel recordings of Charles and other artists whose work had been stored in the singer’s library.
“Ray couldn’t see this guy was walking out with all this stuff,” he told the newspaper. “And that would be pretty sad if that was the case.”
Jerry Digney, Charles’ former publicist, said in a statement: “Whatever the outcome, Ray Charles Enterprises puts a high value on its assets, especially its master tapes, and will do its utmost to ensure their safety and proper handling.”
Charles died of acute liver disease last June, aged 73.
The award-winning biopic about his life, Ray, earned Jamie Foxx an Oscar for best actor.