HARRISBURG — During a press conference today at the Richland Township Police Department, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced new charges against a Johnstown pediatrician for the sexual abuse of 29 more child victims. The pediatrician was previously charged in January, March and April for similar crimes against a 12-year-old patient and family relatives.
Dr. Johnnie Barto, 70, was charged in the latest cases with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, both felonies in the first degree, in addition to multiple counts of indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children. Barto is currently incarcerated on charges related to the other assaults. His medical license has been suspended.
“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,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at today’s press conference with Richland Township Police Chief Michael Burgan and members of his prosecution team. “Our agents and Richland police continued interviewing young victims – some assaulted by Barto as recently as January – and older victims as well, who came forward and told of being assaulted by Barto years ago in his office, when they came as young children, seeking his care.”
The latest round of charges against Barto detail a pattern of abuse dating back to the 1980s. These victims included boys and girls, many aged 8 to 12 years old – ages when young people typically visit a pediatrician for their health care. One infant girl was two weeks old when Barto sexually assaulted her, causing her to cry out in pain. Another girl was 21 months old when Barto assaulted her, inserting his fingers in her genitals on seven separate office visits – always in medically inappropriate ways.
The vast majority of assaults committed by Barto occurred in an examination room at Laurel Pediatric Associates of Cambria County. Several assaults also took place at local hospitals in Cambria County. Investigators found that the pediatrician either waited for the parents of his victims to leave the exam room, used his own body as a shield to block parents from seeing his assault on the victim or claimed the assaults were part of a standard medical exam.
Barto digitally penetrated many of his victims. He groped their breasts, inserted his fingers in their vaginas, and put his hands on their penises – in a manner and practice that was unarguably inconsistent with any standard medical protocol. Barto inserted his ungloved fingers into young girls’ genitals – when they came to his office seeking treatment of the flu or a migraine headache.
When Barto fondled a 16-year-old patient’s breasts and touched her buttocks inappropriately, his patient’s mother – also a doctor – heard what happened from her daughter and confronted Barto. Barto promised to never again see a teenage female patient alone. He made that promise in 1997, but Barto’s sexual assaults on children continued 20 more years, until he was arrested in January 2018. If convicted of these charges, Barto will spend the rest of his life in jail.
“I want to thank the brave survivors who have come forward and shared with our investigators their traumatizing experiences at the hands of Dr. Barto,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “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.”
The Office of Attorney’s special hotline for the Barto case is 412-565-7680. Victims or families can also call Richland Township Police at 814-266-8333. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Simquita Bridges.
“Every parent sends their child to a pediatrician to make sure they are healthy and getting the care they need. Parents rely on those doctors to examine their children, give them medical advice, and guide them as they try to do their best for their children,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “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.”
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