EBENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former Pennsylvania pediatrician was sentenced Monday to at least 79 years in prison for sexually assaulting 31 children, most of them patients, as his now-adult victims blasted not only their abuser but the system that let him get away with it for so long.
Dr. Johnnie Barto of Johnstown was sentenced on dozens of criminal counts, including aggravated indecent assault and child endangerment. Prosecutors said he spent decades abusing children in the exam room at his pediatric practice in western Pennsylvania and at local hospitals, having opted to become a pediatrician so he’d have a ready supply of victims.
He typically abused prepubescent girls. One was an infant.
“I grieve for the little girl I should have been, for the childhood I should’ve had. … I grieve for all the children you hurt,” Erika Brosig, who was sexually abused at age 13, said at Barto’s sentencing.
Brosig and 18 other people gave victim impact statements Monday, both in person and through a prosecutor, describing their pain and hurt.
Barto’s wife, Linda Barto, was among them.
“He has been lying to me about everything for all of the 52 years I have known him. … He spent his whole sinister life lying and sneaking around, so he could carry on his abuse uninterrupted,” she said. She said her heart was heavy for the victims.
Authorities had a chance to stop Barto in 2000, when he appeared before the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine on administrative charges that he molested two young girls in the 1990s. But regulators threw out the case and allowed him to keep practicing medicine, saying the allegations were “incongruous to his reputation.”
Barto was a beloved pediatrician in Johnstown — and an elected school board member — with hundreds of supporters who flatly disbelieved he was a pedophile. Such was the community’s support that ribbons were distributed and worn at a high school football game as he fought the allegations in the 1990s. Brosig, who felt obligated to wear the ribbon as a member of the color guard, said it “burned a hole in my chest that entire night.”
After the medical board cleared him, Barto felt “invincible,” he later told authorities. And he continued molesting. Barto, now 71, went on to violate at least a dozen more young patients before his arrest in January 2018, according to the state attorney general’s office.
“Dr. Barto used his position of authority as a pediatrician, the family doctor relied on to treat and heal their children, to feed his own sick desires,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference after the sentencing.
In handing Barto a prison term of 79 to 158 years — meaning the ex-pediatrician will die in prison — a judge told the gathered victims Monday that justice was finally theirs.
“All I can say is that the justice system is not perfect, but it worked the second time,” Judge Patrick Kiniry said.
As Barto sat impassively just a few feet away, victims described in minute detail their assaults: what Barto was wearing (a striped purple shirt); what the room looked like (burgundy carpeting on the walls, orange chairs, teal stool); what he did and how it made them feel.
Brosig said she can still feel Barto’s cold hands and hear the exam table paper crinkling underneath her body. “The sound of you moaning will haunt me until the day I die,” she told Barto.
One victim said that because of what Barto did to her, she rarely sees a doctor and is terrified of taking her children to one. Another told the court she showers in the dark because she’s ashamed of her body.
Many spoke of lifelong struggles with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and distrust of men. “I’ve lived my life in pain, hopelessness and despair,” a woman said in her statement.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they consent.
Prosecutors had asked for 31 to 62 years in prison.
Barto did not apologize and declined to make a statement. He pleaded guilty in December to sexually abusing two family members. He pleaded no contest to the charges involving his patients, refusing to admit guilt but accepting the punishment.
His lawyer, David Weaver, said Barto would not appeal the sentence.
Even after Barto was charged last year, some people in the area still couldn’t accept the truth about him, launching a Facebook group in support.
Nashville Christmas Morning Bomber Identified As Human Remains Found At Crime Scene, Motive Unknown
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion, and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday.
Investigators used DNA and other evidence to link the man, identified as Anthony Quinn Warner, to the mysterious explosion but said they have not determined a motive. Officials have received hundreds of tips and leads, but have concluded that no one other than Warner is believed to have been involved in the early morning explosion that damaged dozens of buildings.
“We’re still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved,” said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office. “We’ve reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved.”
In publicly identifying the suspect and his fate, officials disclosed a major breakthrough in their investigation even as they acknowledged the lingering mystery behind the explosion, which took place on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity and was accompanied by a recorded announcement warning anyone nearby that a bomb would soon detonate.
No motive was disclosed by investigators nor was it revealed why Warner had selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.
Warner, who public records show had experience with electronics and alarms and who had also worked as a computer consultant for a Nashville realtor, had been linked to the bombing since at least Saturday when federal and local investigators converged on a home in suburban Nashville linked to him.
Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the home and the backyard. A Google Maps image captured in May 2019 had shown an RV similar to the one that exploded parked in the backyard, but it was not at the property on Saturday, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.
Officials said their identification of Warner involved several key pieces of evidence, including DNA found at the explosion site. Investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol also recovered parts from the recreational vehicle where the bomb was detonated among the wreckage from the blast, and were able to link the vehicle identification number to an RV that was registered to Warner, officials said.
Whitmer says Trump ‘inciting’ domestic terrorism
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for incendiary comments he made about her during a weekend campaign rally, saying the President’s heightened rhetoric just days after authorities foiled a plot by extremists to kidnap her is “inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”
But as Whitmer, a Democrat, pleaded with Trump to “bring down the heat,” the President’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump described the President’s calls to jail the governor as him “having fun,” during an interview with CNN on Sunday.
“You know, it’s incredibly disturbing that the President of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered, the President is at it again and inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer said in an interview on NBC.
“It is wrong. It’s got to end. It is dangerous, not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of goodwill on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down,” she added.
During a rally Saturday in Michigan, Trump accused Whitmer, whom he has previously called “a dictator,” of unnecessarily locking down her state as she fought the coronavirus pandemic. That led his crowd to break into a chant of “Lock her up!” a little more than a week after federal authorities revealed a plot by extremists to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the government.
Rather than condemning the derailed plot — which led to terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against more than a dozen men — or discouraging that kind of divisive language, Trump responded to the cheer by saying, “Lock them all up” — drawing on his authoritarian rhetoric about jailing his political opponents by adding Hillary Clinton and the Biden family into the mix.
Asked about the chants by CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, Lara Trump, who serves as a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, downplayed the comments and dismissed concerns about their potential impact.
“Well, look, he wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” she said, referring to Whitmer. “He was having fun at a Trump rally.”
During his rally Saturday, Trump also complained that Whitmer said publicly that his refusal to denounce White supremacists, extremists and hate groups has emboldened activists like those who allegedly planned the foiled attack against her.
“I guess they said she was threatened, right?” Trump said, seeming to doubt the specifics of the case and underplaying the violence it could have entailed. “She was threatened, and she blamed me — she blamed me, and our people were the ones that worked with her people, so let’s see what happens.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware called Lara Trump’s comments “troubling” during an appearance on “State of the Union” later Sunday, telling Tapper that the President’s language creates a clear contrast between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“If that means that for our President ‘fun’ is fueling division and encouraging folks to say and do things that are threatening and completely inappropriate, well that’s a reminder of what kind of president we currently have, in sharp contrast to Joe Biden, someone who can and will bring our country together,” Coons said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also criticized Trump for his rally comments, saying in an interview with ABC on Sunday that he was being “irresponsible” with his rhetoric.
“The President has to realize the words of the president of the United States weigh a ton. And in that political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially (about) a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat.
London police shocked by rare fatal shooting of officer
A police officer in London died after being shot in the early hours of Friday by a man who was being detained in a rare fatal shooting of a UK police officer.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Friday at Croydon Custody Centre in south London, the city’s Metropolitan Police Service said.
Fellow officers and paramedics treated the officer at the scene, according to a police statement. However, he later died of his injuries at the hospital.
Later on Friday, the police service identified the slain officer as 54-year-old Sgt. Matt Ratana.
“This is a truly shocking incident in which one of our colleagues has lost his life in the most tragic circumstances. My heart goes out to his family, direct colleagues and friends,” said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
A 23-year-old man was detained at the scene, police said. He is in hospital in a critical condition from a gunshot wound. The Metropolitan Police Service has launched a homicide investigation.
The fatal shooting of a police officer is an unusual event in the United Kingdom, where police do not routinely carry guns.
No police firearms were discharged during the incident, the police statement said.
Dick said Ratana was originally from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, and moved to London in 1989. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1991 and was captain of his recruit training class.
According to the UK Police Roll of Honour Trust website, no officer lost his or her life in a shooting incident last year. The last Metropolitan Police officer to lose his life in a violent attack was Keith Palmer, who was fatally stabbed in a terror attack in the British capital in 2017.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country owed a “huge debt” to police officers who risk their lives to keep the community safe.
“My deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer who was killed in Croydon last night,” he said on Twitter. “We owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “shocked and saddened” by the news. “My thoughts today are with his family, friends, and policing colleagues in London and across the country,” she said in a statement.
Patel said she had offered her condolences to Dick and offered whatever support was needed as the shooting was investigated.
“This is a sad day for our country and another terrible reminder of how our police officers put themselves in danger each and every day to keep the rest of us safe,” she said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “devastated” by the shooting.
“My heart goes out to the family of this brave officer, who has paid the ultimate price for helping to keep Londoners safe. Tragic incidents like this are terrible reminders of the dangers our police officers face every single day,” Khan said on Twitter.
“My thoughts are also with the entire Metropolitan Police family, who I know will be deeply mourning their colleague at this extremely difficult time. I remain in close contact with the Commissioner to offer her and our Met officers and staff my support.”