Dozens of new charges filed against Johnstown pediatrician
RICHLAND TOWNSHIP — A disgraced local pediatrician who is currently jailed on child sexual abuse charges was charged Monday with abusing 29 additional children in his care.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office filed 69 felony and misdemeanor counts against Dr. Johnnie “Jack” Barto, who has been in the Cambria County Prison since March in a separate, related case.
In the latest cases, Barto, 70, Delta Drive, Johnstown, is accused of abusing children going back to the 1980s and as recent as January. The children were both boys and girls.
According to two probable-cause affidavits, the abuse took place at Barto’s former employer, Laurel Pediatric Associates, which has offices in Johnstown and Somerset, at Conemaugh Hospital in Johnstown and at Lee Hospital in Johnstown. An employee who answered the phone at Laurel Pediatrics said the office had no comment when contacted Monday by the Daily American. Barto’s medical license has been suspended.
During a press conference Monday at the Richland Township Police Department, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro described Barto as a “predator pediatrician” who committed “monstrous acts.”
“The sexual assault committed against 29 child victims by a man whom the victims trusted, a man whom their families trusted and a man whom this community trusted: a family pediatrician,” Shapiro said, adding that Barto was also charged with child sexual abuse in January, March and April. “And now today, after months of intensive investigation by agents and prosecutors in my office, working with the Richland Township police, we are charging Dr. Johnnie Barto with the sexual assault of 29 additional victims.”
He said a lot of the assaults were committed against children 8 to 12 years old, but also against younger victims.
“One infant girl was 2 weeks old when Barto sexually assaulted her, causing her to cry out in pain,” he said, adding emphasis on the infant’s age. “This was a monstrous act by a predator pediatrician. Another girl was 21 months old when Barto assaulted her.”
Barto would often ask parents to leave the room or shield the children with his body when he abused the kids, according to the affidavits. He allegedly would digitally penetrate girls, fondle their breasts and grope boys’ genitals ungloved. When confronted about the assaults, Barto would claim it was standard medical procedure.
Some of the assaults occurred when a patient was to be treated for something completely unrelated to their private area, according to an affidavit. In one of the cases, Barto allegedly fondled an 8-year-old girl’s vagina at Laurel Pediatrics’ Somerset location. The girl was being seen for flu-like symptoms, including an earache.
“Look, any sexual assault or abuse of a child is against the law, and my office regularly brings these cases against child predators across the commonwealth, but make no mistake, this case had an added dimension of the accused predator being someone whom the community, the families and victims trusted: the family doctor,” he said. “Barto horribly, horribly betrayed that trust. He used his position of authority as a pediatrician to treat and heal their children, and he abused that position of authority to feed his own sick sexual desires. Now we are holding this predator wholly accountable for his horrendous crimes: an assault on children entrusted to his care.”
He said that the investigation is “very much ongoing.” He declined to comment if more charges are pending.
Barto was first charged in January with inappropriately touching a 12-year-old female patient. He was later charged with abusing 7- and 14-year-old girls. In the late ’90s Barto was accused of molesting girls during an office visit but was later cleared of those charges.
In addition to Monday’s 69 charges, Barto faces 11 more sexually related offenses in three separate cases. Shapiro said that if Barto is convicted of the latest charges, he will spend the rest of his life in jail.
“If convicted — when convicted — of these charges Barto will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs” he said. “Johnnie Barto is a predator and a public menace, and he deserves to stay behind bars.”
Barto was arraigned Monday by District Judge Susan Gindlesperger, of Belmont, and received additional bonds of $1.5 million and $1 million. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 10 before Gindlesperger.
Online court documents for the latest charges did not list an attorney for Barto Monday evening. Attorney David Weaver, who has represented Barto in past cases, did not return a telephone message Monday seeking comment.
Anyone who feels they have been abused by Barto can call a special hotline set up by Shapiro’s office at 412-565-7680 or Richland police at 814-266-8333.