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Swallow Hill cancels Peter Yarrow show after child molestation conviction is revealed

Margaret Jackson

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Peter Yarrow(John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images)

Swallow Hill Music brought the hammer down on the Oct. 30 show Peter Yarrow was scheduled to perform after learning the famed folk singer won a presidential pardon after being convicted of molesting a child in 1969.

Swallow Hill Chief Executive Officer Paul Lhevine said he received a call this week alerting him that there would be protests if Yarrow, a renowned folk singer of the group Peter, Paul and Mary, was allowed to perform at the 1,000-seat Temple Emanuel synagogue. The caller steered Lhevine to a Washington Post story published Monday that outlined details of the assault and pardon.

“I think he threaded the needle and got away with a 40-year career of fame and fortune and stage presence because all of this happened at a time when we didn’t have social media and everybody wasn’t networked in the same way,” Lhevine said. “This was a story that got buried.”

The songs Peter, Paul and Mary were known for include “If I had a Hammer,” “I Dig Rock and Roll Music,” “Lemon Tree,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” written by Bob Dylan, and “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which became a hit single in 1963.

Lhevine recalls Yarrow inviting all the children in the audience on stage when he performed the song at a concert Swallow Hill presented at the Oriental Theater in 2015.

Now that he’s aware of Yarrow’s history, Lhevine said remembering that event “makes me sick to my stomach.”

“It is so morally repulsive and repugnant,” Lhevine said. “This was a big problem and the light was never adequately shone in the proper place.”

Lhevine said he has not been successful in reaching Yarrow’s manager, though his agent indicated he would receive a call.

Yarrow admitted and was convicted of molesting then 14-year-old Barbara Winter, according to The Washington Post story. Yarrow, now 82, served less than three months in jail for the crime.

President Jimmy Carter pardoned Yarrow on his last full day in office in 1981, but it was eclipsed by the freeing of the American hostages in Iran just hours before. The pardon didn't make headlines until The Washington Post covered it on Feb. 7 that year, but even then it was buried in the newspaper’s Metro section.

Winter’s older sister Kathie, then 17, was president of Washington, D.C.’s Peter Yarrow fan club. The girls ditched church and walked to the Shoreham Hotel a few blocks away to meet Yarrow, who was in town for a series of concerts. They called his room from the hotel lobby, and Yarrow invited them up, according to The Washington Post story.

When the girls got to Yarrow’s room, they discovered he was nude, and Yarrow forced Winter to masturbate him, according to the sworn statement she gave police. She told police she resisted but didn’t scream or try to escape, according to The Washington Post story.

At the time of the sexual assault, Yarrow was engaged to Mary Beth McCarthy, niece of Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

“He was able to rise above the crime because he was a person of fame and a person who was incredibly networked politically,” Lhevine said.

Winter may not have been Yarrow’s only victim. A woman filed a lawsuit in New York on Feb. 24 alleging that Yarrow raped her in a Manhattan hotel when she was a minor, according to the Washington Post.

The lawsuit was filed after New York, which had one of the shortest statute of limitations in the nation, eliminated the five-year time limit for bringing rape charges against someone.

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I'm a Denver-based business writer with expertise in commercial and residential real estate as well as general business news.

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