Johnstown pediatrician accused of sexually abusing 29 more children
A Johnstown pediatrician accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old patient and his relatives is charged with the sexual assaults of 29 more child victims, state Attorney General Joshua Shapiro said Monday.
Dr. Johnnie Barto, 70, faces more than 40 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children -- some as young as infants as well as many girls and boys ages 8 to 12 and teenagers, Shapiro said.
Prosecutors say that Barto’s sexual abuse of young patients began as long ago as the 1980s and continued as recently as January.
“Barto used his position of authority as a pediatrician - the family doctor everyone relied on to treat and heal their children - and abused it to feed his own, sick sexual desires,” Shapiro said during a news conference in Richland Township, Cambria County.
Barto, whose medical license has been suspended, is being held at the Cambria County Jail.
An attorney for Barto could not be reached late Monday.
Most of the reported assaults that investigators attributed to Barto happened in an examination room at Laurel Pedatric Associates of Cambria County. Several others happened at nearby hospitals, investigators said. Barto practiced in Cambria and Somerset counties.
According to investigators, Barto waited for the parents of the victims to leave the exam room or “used his own body as a shield to block parents from seeing his assault on the victim.” In some cases, Barto told parents that his alleged assault was part of a routine exam.
“Barto violated every tenet of his oath as a doctor and as a decent human being -- violating the trust of his victims, their parents and of the entire community,” Shapiro said.
One alleged victim was a two-week-old girl who cried out in pain during Barto’s alleged sexual assault, Shapiro said. Another was less than 2 years old when Barto was suspected of assaulting her on seven separate visits.
In 1997, a 16-year-old patient told her mother Barto had fondled her breasts and touched her inappropriately, investigators said. When the mother, also a doctor, confronted Barto, he reassured her he would never examine a teenage girl alone again, investigators said.
The alleged abuse continued 20 more years.
Barto was charged in January, March and April for similar crimes.
In February, a judge ordered Barto to stand trial on charges of assaulting a 12-year-old patient whose mother called police after she learned about the incident. At the time, Shapiro said the investigation was ongoing and he suspected there could me more victims.
In March, Barto was charged with the indecent assault of a 14-year-old family member who fell asleep at Barto’s house during a family gathering and reported waking up to being touched inappropriately.
The charges and ensuing investigation have led to 29 more victims coming forward in recent months.
Richland Township police and state agents have been interviewing the parents of young child victims as well as adults who say they were abused in Barto’s office when they were children.
The Tribune-Review does not identify the victims of alleged sexual assault.
On Monday, Shapiro thanked the “brave survivors who have come forward and shared with our investigators their traumatizing experiences at the hands of Dr. Barto.”
“I have a message for these courageous individuals, and for any person or institution that believes they can get away with sexually abusing children and covering it up: We will pursue every allegation of child sexual abuse wherever we find it -- in a doctor’s office, in a school or church -- and we will hold child sexual predators accountable for their crimes under Pennsylvania law.”
If convicted on all charges, Barto could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Simquita Bridges is prosecuting the case.
Shaprio urged anyone with information to call a state hotline established for the Barto investigation at 412-565-7680. Victims or families can also reach Richland Township police at 814-266-8333.