Peter Yarrow's presidential pardon masked 'indecent liberties' conviction, victim says amid sex abuse lawsuit
18th May 2021

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Concerns about folk singer Peter Yarrow are continuing to grow as a woman he was convicted of molesting in 1969 now claims his crime was overshadowed and essentially forgotten once he was pardoned by former President Jimmy Carter.

Barbara Winter was the 14-year-old girl who Yarrow admitted to molesting in 1969. He was convicted and served less than three months in jail for the crime, only for him to later be pardoned by Carter in 1981.

Winter, speaking out about his pardon in an interview with the Washington Post this week, said it felt as if she “got sucker-punched in the gut.” 

“It’s telling him, ‘It’s OK what you did, just don’t get caught next time,’ if that makes sense,” she continued.

Winter claims she also learned about the famed musician’s pardon through her mother, who read about it in the newspaper. Now 66 years old, Winter explained to the outlet that her older sister Kathie Berkel was a leader of Yarrow’s fan club. 

On Aug. 31, 1969, the sisters were dropped off at church but made their way to Yarrow’s hotel room instead, where he allegedly invited them in. A sworn statement she gave decades ago involved Winter claiming that when she and her sister arrived to Yarrow’s hotel room he was naked, the report says.

CIRCA 1965: (L-R) Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers and Paul Stookey of the folk group "Peter, Paul & Mary" pose for a portrait in circa 1965. 
(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Winter alleged Yarrow made her masturbate him until he ejaculated. Winter claims Berkel witnessed it, which she denied when reached about it recently.

“I can’t say for sure [what happened] because I wasn’t in the room…she was in the room by herself with him for five minutes, and I was right outside,” Berkel claimed to the outlet.

“It happened when I was just an innocent child. I didn’t know anything,” Winter now claims. “I was just a little girl that liked to play with her friends.”

She alleged Yarrow informed her “not to tell anybody” except a priest in confession. She says she was a Catholic at the time. 

Yarrow pleaded guilty to taking “immoral and improper liberties” with a child. He was convicted to one to three years in prison but served just a little under three months.

Winter’s mother eventually filed a $1.25 million lawsuit against Yarrow which was settled at an amount Winter isn’t sure of. Her sister Berkel says she hopes “everyone else” will move on as Yarrow “got help.”

Musician Peter Yarrow has released several children’s books, some of which appear to still be on sale at major booksellers.
(Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Yarrow, who makes up one-third of the Peter, Paul and Mary folk trio, is also facing a new lawsuit from a woman named Deborah Martin. Martin filed a complaint against the 82-year-old musician in Manhattan Supreme Court in February under the state’s Child Victims Act.

“It breaks my heart to know that he was still doing it. It’s just horrible,” Winter said of the new accusations. “And I know what she’s going through. I do. And at least she had the courage to now come forward.”

In the February 2021 complaint obtained by Fox News, Yarrow is accused of sexual abuse of a child, negligence, assault, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also lodges a claim against the Peter, Paul & Mary, Co. for negligence and negligent hiring, retention and supervision.

An attorney for Yarrow, as well as reps for the Peter, Paul and Mary, Co. did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment on the lawsuit filed in February. The reps also were reached for comment about Winter’s claims.

“Mr. Yarrow and his company, Peter Paul and Mary, bear obvious responsibility for his egregious behaviors towards this teenager in 1969,” Martin’s attorney Lisa Coppola told Fox News in a written statement in February. “It’s reprehensible that he tricked her and then raped her in a hotel room. The Child Victims Act gives long-suffering adults an avenue to finally seek justice.”

Musician Peter Yarrow attends a book signing for his new book "It’s Raining, It’s Pouring"  at McNally Jackson on August 1, 2012 in New York City. 
(Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Martin alleges in the complaint that she was a fan of Peter, Paul and Mary, and even met members of the group during her youth. Martin had “several seemingly-friendly interactions with Yarrow,” according to the complaint, and claims Yarrow groomed the plaintiff.

Yarrow, known for writing the hit “Puff the Magic Dragon,” has released several children’s books, which are listed on his website. Some appear to still be sold at major booksellers including Amazon. A spokesperson for the retail giant did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment.

Peter, Paul & Mary have been nominated for Grammys and earned eight gold and five platinum albums during their peak. Meanwhile, despite the lawsuit against Yarrow, he and Noel Paul Stookey are scheduled to perform at venues later this year. Mary Travers died in 2009.

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