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Press Release

Attorney General Shapiro Stands with Survivors of Abuse as Johnstown Pediatrician is Sentenced to 79 to 158 Years in Prison for Sexually Assaulting 31 Children

March 18, 2019 | Topic: Criminal

Investigation by Attorney General’s Office Dug Deeply into Dr. Johnnie Barto’s Predatory Behavior and Assaults of Children Spanning Decades

EBENSBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today stood with survivors of Johnstown pediatrician Dr. Johnnie Barto following Barto’s sentencing to 79 to 158 years in prison for sexually assaulting 31 children over many years. Two of Barto’s victims were family members; the others were child patients brought to his doctor’s office for treatment by unsuspecting parents.

Barto, 71, was sentenced to prison by Cambria County Common Pleas Judge Patrick T. Kiniry. The majority of the assaults committed by Barto took place in the examination room at Laurel Pediatric Associates. Barto also assaulted two young family members at family gatherings.

Victims included girls and boys, many aged 8 to 12 years old – the typical age for a child visiting their pediatrician. Two victims were toddlers – one was a two-week-old infant.

“This was a horrendous series of crimes,” Attorney General Shapiro said at a news conference. “Dr. Barto used his authority as a pediatrician – the family doctor everyone relied on to treat their children – as a cloak to feed his own sick desires. He held himself out as a pillar in his community – a family pediatrician, an elected member of the school board, a regular attendee at church. My office unraveled Barto’s web of lies, deceits and assault of children, and today he’s been held accountable for his crimes.”

In December, Barto entered pleas to multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, and indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children. At sentencing, the court accepted a report classifying Barto as a Sexually Violent Predator under Megan’s Law. This means Barto is required to register with the Pennsylvania State Police for the rest of his life.

Rumors about Dr. Barto and his possible abuse of children patients were present in the community for years. In 1999, a complaint about Dr. Barto was heard by the state licensing board for physicians, which cleared him, allowing him to resume his pediatrician practice.

“Dr. Barto thought he was immune to prosecution, and he played a long game to ensure that families thought well of him and allowed their children near him,” Shapiro said.

The Attorney General’s case against Barto began in December 2017, after the family of a 12-year-old girl reported to police that Dr. Barto had sexually assaulted her in his doctor’s office. Cambria County District Attorney Kelli Callihan referred the case to the Office of Attorney General Shapiro due to a conflict. Attorney General investigators, working with Richland police, developed the initial set of charges against Barto, which police lodged in January 2018.

Believing there might be many more victims of Barto, Attorney General Shapiro’s prosecutors issued a public call for information, and set up a special hotline to take calls. Agents followed up and investigated multiple tips and calls as they came in.

In March and April, 2018, Attorney General Shapiro’s team filed new charges against Barto for sexually abusing two young female family members. Their investigation in the community continued, and in July, Attorney General Shapiro announced new sexual assault charges against Barto involving 28 other cases of young patients.

In court today, and afterward at the news conference with Attorney General Shapiro, several of Barto’s victims were present. Several had provided impact statements to Judge Kiniry.

“By luck of the draw of physicians in his office, I was a patient of the defendant one time when I was five years old,” read one victim’s impact statement. “One time too many. During my visit, he violated me not once, but twice, while other unsuspecting individuals were in the room. While his actions were brief, they were damaging. They impacted my life in how I view myself, including my self-worth and self-esteem.”

“To the defendant: You don’t know anything about me. To you, I am a number in your list of abused children. But I remember you. I remember your white-collared, long-sleeve shirt with light purple vertical stripes. I remember the way I laid and sat when you became a monster.”

Attorney General Shapiro noted that in addition to the 31 incidents of assault charged, at least a half-dozen other cases could not be charged because of the criminal statute of limitations. A reform recommended last year by a statewide grand jury investigating child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church would eliminate this statute of limitation entirely.

“I want to acknowledge the victims of Dr. Barto who are still waiting for their moment of justice because our Commonwealth’s statute of limitations prohibits any type of legal action for their abuse,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “I will continue pushing to change our laws so you—and every survivor—have the chance to hold your abuser accountable.”

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