Johnstown pediatrician to spend rest of life behind bars for child sexual abuse
EBENSBURG — In what equates to a life sentence, 71-year-old Johnnie “Jack” Barto was sentenced Monday to 79 to 158 years in prison for sexually abusing children at both his pediatric medical practice and family gatherings.
Barto, of Johnstown, was found to be a sexually violent predator by Cambria County Judge Patrick Kiniry in a hearing prior to Barto’s sentencing in 31 reported cases of sexual abuse of children. The disgraced doctor sat quietly in a stylish charcoal-gray suit and matching tie, his hands folded in his lap, as multiple survivors, now all adults, stood before the judge giving impact statements. Others had Senior Deputy Attorney General Simquita Bridges read their statements into the record.
The atmosphere was heavy with anger and disgust. There were lots of words from the survivors, many addressed directly to Barto, who maintained eye contact with those who spoke from the podium and never changed his neutral expression.
When given the opportunity, Barto had nothing to say.
Barto pleaded guilty in December to multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children. His victims, both boys and girls, ranged in age from 2 months old to their early teens, according to prosecutors.
Those who came forward at Barto’s sentencing spoke of fear of not being believed, and feelings of despair and anxiety. One woman said she jeopardizes her health because of an instilled fear of doctors, while another said she is anxious about her children being harmed in the same way. The Daily American generally does not name sexual abuse victims, unless they choose to come forward.
Barto’s reactions were no different when his own family members spoke: the mother of the niece he molested and his wife, Linda, who said he “shattered” the family after 52 years of marriage.
“He has been lying to me about everything,” she said.
A prosecutor read a statement from Barto’s daughter: “My father deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. It is not safe for him to be around children.”
One woman said Barto’s actions have impacted her life into adulthood.
“There are many things I do now that are the result of what you did to me,” she said. “I have become timid and uncomfortable around (middle-aged) men and try to stay away from them.”
A mother of one of the more recently abused survivors told the judge that “I worry that as she ages, there will be triggers that will set her back.”
Many women spoke about how the abuse influenced their families and compelled their parents to experience feelings of guilt even though it was not their fault.
“Somehow you invaded not only my body, but my mind as well,” another survivor said. “I can’t imagine the guilt my mother feels. She was in the room with me and my sister.”
The judge said he had several reasons for sentencing Barto in the aggravated range.
What “really bothered me,” Kiniry said, was the aftermath of an investigation into the alleged assault of a 3-year-old whom Barto held partially clothed on his lap in the late 1990s. Barto’s medical license was temporarily suspended. When Barto got his license back in 2000, he said, “I felt invincible,” according to court records.
“That had a big impact on me,” the judge said.
“You got away with it before and you didn’t stop . . . you felt you were invincible,” Kiniry said.
He pointed out that the type of crime, the age of the victims, the multiple victims and the profession that Barto chose all played a role in his decision.
“The word trust was used a lot,” the judge said about statements from victims and their family members.
The pediatrician was charged in July with the sexual abuse of 29 children, after having previously been charged with similar crimes against another former patient and two family members.
Barto’s attorney, David Weaver of Johnstown, said his client’s lifelong condition began when he was 5 years old and a little girl pulled down his pants. He found that so exciting that he later did the same to other young girls his age. His prescribed mental health disorder or sickness is “a condition that itself overrode his ability to stop,” he said.
Sixty-six years later outside an empty courtroom, Weaver said: “Today we heard some profound, heartfelt and courageous statements. They were a long time in coming. Hopefully, a lot of good will flow from these proceedings. Now is a time for healing for everyone.”
Later this week, Barto will be taken into the prison system, where he will spend the rest of his life.