Peter Yarrow: How did this child molester score a presidential pardon?
In recent years, presidential pardons have become contentious as former U.S. President Donald Trump moved to pardon many of his colleagues & friends at the end of his time in office. In light of that, it seems strange that one of the most outrageous pardons in United States history originally received very little media attention at all.
President Jimmy Carter pardoned Peter Yarrow, of the famous singer-songwriter group Peter, Paul, and Mary, on his last day in office in 1981. It may be the only time in the nation’s history that a President has given a pardon to a convicted child molester.
Now the pardon is finally receiving the attention it deserves. Forty years after Carter pardoned Peter Yarrow, another woman came forward to accuse the songwriter of luring her to a hotel and raping her in 1969. Find out the details below.
Barbara Winter was fourteen years old on August 31st, 1969, when her older sister took her to the Shoreham Hotel to meet Peter Yarrow. Winter’s sister, who was seventeen at the time, was the president of Washington, DC’s Peter Yarrow fan club. The girls called Yarrow’s room from the lobby, and he invited them to come upstairs.
In a sworn statement that Winters gave to the police, she said that Yarrow molested her while making her sister watch. She said Yarrow told her not to tell anyone what had happened. She kept the secret for six months before finally telling a friend in 1970. Soon, her mother & stepfather learned what happened and called the police.
Yarrow pleaded guilty to taking “immoral and improper liberties” with a child. He insisted that the fourteen-year-old Winters was a willing participant. She has always denied that claim.
Before Yarrow was sentenced, Winter’s mother sued the songwriter for $1.25 million. She claimed there had been multiple incidents of Yarrow abusing not just Winters, but also her older sister. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and the Winters family soon relocated to New Hampshire.
Peter Yarrow was initially sentenced to one-to-three years in prison, but the judge decided to suspend all but three months of his sentence. Yarrow was released from prison on November 25th, 1970. The release came three days early, so that Yarrow could return home for Thanksgiving.
Getting a pardon
Peter Yarrow went on to have a successful career, even after pleading guilty to child molestation. Yarrow filed a petition for pardon on December 10th, 1980. In the petition, he asked for the pardon in order to lighten “the sense of shame” he said his children would inevitably feel upon learning of his conviction.
Most pardon applications take a year or more to be properly vetted. In addition to that, pardons can only be applied to federal crimes, meaning state-level crimes like child molestation cannot be pardoned. Had Peter Yarrow’s conviction occurred anywhere other than Washington D.C., which isn’t a state, he wouldn’t have been eligible for a pardon.
Peter Yarrow’s application was processed in under five weeks. It remains unclear how the pardon came to be granted on such short notice. President Carter issued the pardon on his last day in office. News of the American hostages in Iran being freed quickly buried the pardon story, and Yarrow returned to his regular life.
On February 24th, 2021, a new lawsuit was filed in New York, where the 2019 Child Victims Act opened a window for abuse victims to sue their attackers regardless of how long ago the abuse had taken place. The new suit claims Peter Yarrow encouraged a young girl to come see him in New York, and when she did, he raped her before buying her a plane ticket to return home the next day. The lawsuit is still ongoing.
Should new laws make it impossible for convicted child molesters to receive pardons of any kind? Let us know what you think in the comments.