USA Today

Peace Corps

Immediately after a Peace Corps employee in Tanzania went on a reckless drunk driving spree in 2019 that left one woman dead and another badly wounded, police in Dar es Salaam initiated an investigation that could have put the U.S. citizen behind bars overseas.

But U.S. State Department officials acted fast to thwart their efforts to hold John Peterson accountable, according to hundreds of pages of documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The records show Dar es Salaam police tried to give Peterson a breathalyzer test but gave up after a U.S. embassy security official asserted that Peterson’s diplomatic immunity exempted him from such testing. Peterson, however, did not have diplomatic immunity.

Police released Peterson from custody and directed him to return to the police station two days later. Instead, U.S. embassy officials that same day put Peterson on a plane and waited to inform their counterparts in Tanzania of the incident until after the plane had left.

“Once they are airborne, I will notify” Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the top U.S. official at the embassy in Dar es Salaam, Inmi Patterson, wrote in an email to staff and State Department central operations. “We would have to handle their reaction/consequences then.”

The State Department and Peace Corps records USA TODAY obtained provide the most complete accounting yet of how U.S. officials spirited Peterson out of Africa and of the destruction Peterson caused on the streets of Dar es Salaam after he brought a sex worker to his government-leased home.

Click here to read the rest of the USA Today story.

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