The day before he left office, former president Carter granted a pardon to folk singer Peter Yarrow, who pleaded guilty more than 10 years ago in U.S. District Court here to a morals charge involving a 14-year-old girl.

Yarrow, a resident of New York and once a member of the trio known as Peter, Paul and Mary, filed his petition for a pardon Dec. 10, according to David C. Stephenson, the acting pardon attorney at the Department of Justice.

In his petition, Yarrow cited his concern that he would soon have to tell his young children about what he has described at the time as "the most terrible mistake I have ever made."

Yarrow's petition also said, "It is my hope they will see a balanced picture, one that understands that their daddy did something very wrong but also one that asserts that their daddy has also done much for society to eliminate want and inequality where he saw it."

A presidential pardon, Yarrow wrote, would help his children understand that "society has forgiven their father" and might help lessen the "sense of shame that they will inevitably feel."

Stephenson said that Yarrow's pardon application was supported by letters from former New York City mayor John V. Lindsay, former Democratic senator George McGovern of South Dakota, Sam W. Brown and Mary King, the director and deputy director of the volunteer agency ACTION, and Jenny Lowenstein, the widow of former congressman and civil rights activist Allard K. Lowenstein.

The letters described Yarrow as a law-abiding citizen, a devoted father and husband, and they cited his work on behalf of human rights and peaceful causes, Stephenson said.

Pardons are often requested as a kind of recognition of responsible citizenry and to restore any civil rights that may have been withdrawn as a result of a criminal conviction, such as the right to vote or sit on a jury. Yarrow cited both as his reasons for seeking a pardon, Stephenson said.

Yarrow's case was among 11 granted by President Carter in the closing days of his administration, officials said.

Once a pardon request is made, Stephenson said, the applicant is interviewed by the FBI and character references are obtained from friends, relatives and associates. The pardon attorney's office at the Justice Department then makes a recommendation to the deputy attorney general who subsequently forwards the case with his recommendation to the president.

A criminal conviction remains in official police records even if a pardon has been granted, Stephenson said. However, the FBI does make a notation of the pardon in its records.