A 70-year-old Pennsylvania pediatrician sexually abused more than two dozen young patients, sometimes while their parents were still in the room, police said.
Johnnie Wilson “Jack” Barto, of Johnstown, allegedly assaulted both boys and girls, mostly ranging in ages from 8 to 12, the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office announced Monday. One victim was an infant and another was 21 months old, officials said. The abuse, police said, could have spanned decades.
“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 in a statement.
Barto allegedly either waited for the patients’ parents to leave an exam room or used his body as a shield to block parents’ view when he carried out the assaults, police said. He would also say the assaults were part of the routine medical examination, investigators said.
The attorney general’s office said Barto would digitally penetrate young girls – without wearing gloves – when they came in for ailments such as the flu or migraines.
Some of the alleged assaults happened as recently as January, Shapiro said, but could have begun in the 1980s.
The charges, which include indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault and child endangerment, come months after he was arrested on related charges.
In January, he was accused of touching a 12-year-old female patient inappropriately, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. A relative later told investigators that when she was 14, she fell asleep during a family gathering and woke up as Barto was inappropriately touching her, according to the Tribune-Review.
“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.”
“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,” 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.”
The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported that Barto was accused of sexually molesting two female patients in 1998, but he was never criminally charged and denied the allegations. Ultimately, the Board of Medicine determined that he could keep his license, citing a lack of evidence.
A woman confronted Barto in 2017 after the doctor made her wait outside the room while he examined her son's genitals, although the 12-year-old was only suffering from the flu, police said. The woman returned to see the doctor fondling her son, police said, so she “immediately confronted” Barto, who walked away without offering any explanation.
A girl who was about 16 told her mother, herself a physician, that Barto had inappropriately touched her during an exam in 1997, police said. When the mother confronted Barto in the presence of the office manager, he “promised he would never examine a female patient again,” according to police.
Barto’s license was suspended in January, and his bail has been set at $1 million. When the new charges were announced, Barto was already in prison.
The attorney general’s office has created a special hotline related to the case for victims or parents to call: 412-565-7680. They can also contact the Richland Township Police at 814-266-8333.
“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,” 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.”
Shapiro's office said Barto could spend the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted.
Johnstown is a little more than 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.