After pleading guilty in December to the sexual abuse of 31 children, pediatrician Johnnie “Jack” Barto was sentenced to 79 years in prison on March 18. Prosecutors say that Barto abused both boys and girls over a period of several decades, both at his Cambria County office and local hospitals.
At the sentencing hearing, 19 people gave victim impact statements about how the abuse affected their lives, leading to mental health problems and a fear of medical professionals.
Allegations of abuse by Barto first arose in 2000 when he faced administrative charges for the alleged abuse of two young girls in the 1990s. Barto temporarily lost his medical license. However, the administrative judge and prosecuting attorney recused themselves from the case and the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine voted 7-2 to end the case and allow the doctor to continue practicing. He allegedly abused at least a dozen more patients after he was allowed to return to practicing medicine.
Following Barto’s arrest in January, Attorney General Josh Shapiro publicly encouraged any other victims to come forward, which led to another 69 allegations of abuse by Barto and additional criminal charges.
Already arrested in January 2018 on charges that he molested a 12-year-old girl in his office, pediatrician Dr. Johnnie Wilson “Jack” Barto, 70, has been accused of sexual abuse by 29 other patients. On Monday, July 30, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a slew of new charges against the disgraced doctor. In total, Barto faces nearly 70 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of children.
This alleged pattern of serial sexual abuse stretches back until at least the late 1980s, and investigators believe that there are more victims who have not come forward yet. Most of the alleged assaults took place in an examination room at Laurel Pediatric Associates in Cambria County. Several other incidents occurred at area hospitals.
Barto had his bail revoked in May and is currently being held at the Cambria County Jail. If convicted of these new charges, he could face life in prison.
The Attorney General’s Office has set up a hotline for other victims of sexual abuse and their families – (412)-565-7680.
Tragically, incidents of sexual abuse by doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals have been a major issue throughout the United States. Sexual predators often seek positions of power that can be exploited to commit their heinous crimes. Furthermore, the medical industry makes this worse by seeking to give medical professionals second chances. Many doctors who have been accused of sexual assault have been permitted to continue practicing, according to an investigative report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent has some general thoughts on cases of sexual abuse by healthcare professionals:
Doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, and other health care facilities have a legal obligation to make sure their patients are safe and that they are given the quality of care that they deserve. Unfortunately, sometimes these facilities fail to meet this obligation in a number of ways. Incident reports may be downplayed until too many victims come forward to ignore and doctors with a history of sexual abuse may be hired because of inadequate pre-hire screening processes.
When this happens, the case should be treated in a manner similar to how a patient would respond to medical malpractice. If sexual abuse only happens because of the negligence of entities who could have prevented the abuse, it’s important to hold those entities liable for the suffering they’ve allowed to happen. Victims of sexual abuse should consider speaking with an experienced sexual abuse victims lawyer in order to fully understand their legal options. While the police and criminal justice system will do all that they can to put sexual predators behind bars, filing a sexual assault lawsuit is often the best way for survivors to fully exercise their legal rights and secure justice.