A former pediatrician from Pennsylvania was scheduled for sentencing Monday for sexually assaulting 31 children.

Dr. Johnnie Barto will be sentenced on several counts including aggravated indecent assault and child endangerment. He allegedly spent decades abusing boys and girls in the exam room of his pediatric practice Laurel Pediatric Associates in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and some other local hospitals. Most of his victims were between the ages of 8 and 12. His youngest victims were a two-week-old infant and a toddler.

In 2000, Barto appeared before the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine on charges that he molested three young girls in the 1990s. He was accused of inappropriately fondling a four-year-old girl in 1994, a 13-year-old in 1995 and a three-year-old in January 1998. He allegedly abused the third victim in front of her mother, under the pretense of giving her an examination.

However, the authorities allowed him to practice despite the allegations. The charges were called “incongruous to his reputation” since Barto was supported by several people in the community. His license was suspended for a short duration but was revoked after he filed a petition. 

The 2000 decision to drop the charges against him was highly criticized by the victims as well as others. The medical board’s 7-2 vote was called an example of how the state’s physician-regulators looked out only for their own. Vivian Lowenstein was one of the people who voted to strip Barto of his medical license and after the decision was made, she said she felt “sick about it.”

“We thought they got him. Instead, they let him go back to molesting children,” one of his former patients and victims, Jennifer Goetz said.

A complaint against him was registered in December 2017, after a 12-year-old girl told her mother that the doctor, at the end of the examination, made her sit on his lap and molested her. According to the probable-cause affidavit, Barto was summoned by the Richland Township police, where he was made to show a detective that he held the child with his hand “directly over the vaginal area.” Barto was arrested on Jan. 18, 2018 and his license was suspended within a week.

In March 2018, he was charged with two counts of indecent assault, one count of corruption of minors and with endangering the welfare of children — after a girl said Barto molested her in 2002 when she was 14 years old and sleeping on a couch at his home.

Barto pleaded guilty to some of the counts he was accused of and did not contest the others in December 2018. He was jailed pending sentencing.

“Barto opted to enter pleas so that the healing could begin for his family, his victims and for himself,” according to his lawyer David Weaver.

Barto, 71, admitted to sexually assaulting 31 children. Two of the victims were his relatives and were minors at the time of the assault. 

“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,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

Earlier in 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of State said, “The Board of Medicine takes allegations of sexual misconduct by professional licensees very seriously.” The department provides legal and administrative support to the board and prosecutes administrative cases of doctor misconduct.

Barto was likely to face life in prison.