A Pennsylvania pediatrician who was accused of sexual abuse in 1998 but didn't faced charges at the time has now pleaded guilty to sexually abusing dozens of child patients.
Dr. Johnnie Barto, 71, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of children. Much of the abuse had occurred at the examination rooms in Cambria County hospitals, where Barto worked. The ages of the victims, both boys and girls, ranged from 8 to 12 years old. One victim was 2 weeks old.
“Dr. Johnnie Barto used his position of authority – as the pediatrician who families relied on – to feed his own sick desires and take advantage of parents and children seeking basic health care,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, according to WXPI in Pittsburgh.
Barto had been arrested in January after groping a 12-year-old girl during an appointment. He resigned shortly after the arrest. Suspecting the child was not Barto's only victim, the Attorney General's office asked other victims to come forward, prompting more than 30 responses, with some complaints dating back decades.
"They came to their pediatrician seeking care. Instead they were victimized by a serial sexual abuser hiding in a doctor's coat," Shapiro added in a statement.
Barto had previously been accused by two female victims in 1998. The Board Of Medicine allowed Barto to keep his medical license, declaring there was not enough evidence to support the allegations. No charges were ever filed against Barto at the time, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
One of the original accusers, Lee Ann Berkebile, who at the age of 4 had her vagina digitally penetrated by Barto during an appointment to treat a runny nose, expressed relief.
“After 20-some years, I’m just glad it’s finally over, and he can’t do it again. He’s a real sicko,” Berkebile told The Associated Press. “He just makes me really disgusted.”
Barto remains in prison and his medical license has been suspended.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in March, according to WTAJ, an Altoona, Pennsylvania-based news organization.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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