Barto gets what he deserved

The sentencing of former Johnstown pediatrician Johnnie “Jack” Barto on Monday in Cambria County Court exploded quickly beyond the parameters of local news.

Just hours after the sentencing, a former suburban Johnstown resident currently living in Colorado emailed a relative about “Johnstown (being) in the national news for all the wrong reasons.”

Meanwhile, a former Johnstown area man now living in Allentown — someone who attended the University of Pittsburgh at the same time as Barto — emailed a friend about the fact that “it is all over the news down here, even on the Philly stations.”

The sordid Barto saga is another example of bad news traveling fast.

In court on Monday, Barto, 71, received a sentence he deserves; Judge Patrick Kiniry sentenced the former physician to no less than 79 years and up to 158 years behind bars on charges related to 31 victims.

It’s a sentence smacking of the severity that some predator priests of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese who were identified in a state investigatory grand jury report should have received for sexually abusing young people, but who escaped that fate because their crimes only were exposed during the past couple of years, long after their deaths.

For most of those priests, the expiration of the state’s weak and troublesome criminal statute of limitations covering such crimes also would have expired, keeping them from being charged.

According to news reports, approximately nine of Barto’s victims are outside of that statute.

Like Barto, former Penn State assistant football coach and child sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky received a tough court sentence with the potential to keep him jailed for the rest of his life. However, Sandusky currently is seeking a reduced sentence — a reduced penalty that he doesn’t deserve and which Barto never should deserve.

Monday’s sentencing of Barto raised serious questions about the thoroughness, effectiveness and commitment to responsibility of the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine, which restored Barto’s medical license in 2000 after he appeared before the board on administrative charges alleging that he had molested two young girls in the 1990s.

The medical board threw out the case, saying that the allegations were “incongruous” to Barto’s reputation.

One former board member, Vivian Lowenstein, who lodged one of the votes to strip Barto of his license in 2000 — the vote against that action was 7-2 — told the Associated Press in 2018 that she was “sick about” the board’s decision and that the case was an example of how Pennsylvania’s physician-regulators typically looked out for their own.

Whether one disclosure that came about on Monday might have anyone feeling uneasy, going forward, remains to be seen.

An attorney with a California law firm representing a dozen Barto accusers said during a press conference following Barto’s sentencing that the women are pursuing an independent investigation to determine if anyone who worked alongside Barto knew, or should have known, about his actions but failed to act to stop him.

Such a failure resulted in the disgrace of two former bishops of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

Although Barto’s sentence relates to 31 victims; whether, or how many, other victims there might be probably never will be known.

Bad news travels fast, but Barto never again will be able to inflict his horrendous conduct on another child.


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