Nearly two decades after Pennsylvania state regulators let him off the hook, a former pediatrician admitted in court Thursday that he sexually assaulted 31 children, most of them patients.
Dr. Johnnie Barto of Johnstown pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two family members and admitted to sexually assaulting more than two dozen patients.
The abuse spanned decades and typically involved girls and boys between ages 8 and 12, prosecutors said. One of the victims was 2 weeks old. Barto molested children in the exam room at Laurel Pediatric Associates in Cambria County and at local hospitals, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.
Barto, 71, was arrested in January and charged with groping a 12-year-old girl during an office visit several weeks earlier. Suspecting she might not be alone, the attorney general’s office put out a call for other accusers to come forward — and they did, by the dozen, with claims going back to the late 1980s.
“They came to their pediatrician seeking care. Instead they were victimized by a serial sexual abuser hiding in a doctor’s coat,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a videotaped statement released after Barto’s plea.
Barto, whose medical license was suspended, remains behind bars pending his sentencing on multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault, child endangerment and other offenses.
“What happened today was good for everybody, because without a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing, there would be no healing,” said Barto’s lawyer, David Weaver. “This way the healing could begin for his family, his victims and for himself.”
The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine had a chance to stop Barto nearly two decades ago, when he faced administrative charges that he sexually assaulted 4-year-old Lee Ann Berkebile and another young patient during office visits. But state regulators threw out the case and allowed him to keep practicing medicine, and Barto went on to molest more than a dozen more young patients, according to prosecutors.
Berkebile, who is now 29, said Thursday she’s gratified that Barto will be held accountable.
“After 20-some years, I’m just glad it’s finally over, and he can’t do it again. He’s a real sicko,” she told The Associated Press. “He just makes me really disgusted.”
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Berkebile has done.
A suspended San Francisco police officer was charged Wednesday with allegedly robbing a bank of more than $9,000 in cash.
An FBI agent said in a federal court filing the robbery happened on Nov. 29 at the East West Bank in the city’s Sunset District neighborhood.
Surveillance video showed a man, later identified by police as Rain Daugherty, 44, walk into the bank just after 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET) and hand a bank teller a note demanding $50 and $100 bills.
The teller said Daugherty told her to “calm down, just do it” after he passed the note. The teller then grabbed cash from a bank drawer and handed it over. A second teller told investigators that they witnessed the robbery and pressed the alarm button to alert the San Francisco Police Department.
Daugherty fled the bank with approximately $9,050, according to the FBI.
He was identified as the alleged robber after two internal affairs officers with the department and one of the bank tellers viewed photos pulled from the surveillance video, according to the court filing.
Police arrested Daugherty on Tuesday. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the robbery.
Daugherty was already on suspension from the San Francisco Police Department without pay due to an unrelated criminal investigation in San Mateo County, according to the filing.
The messages came to light during the federal prosecution of former Sgt. Ian Furminger, who was convicted in 2014 on charges of conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy to violate civil rights and wire fraud in a case involving stealing money and property from drug suspects. Furminger was sentenced to 41 months in prison a year later.
Daugherty and his colleagues tried to appeal the charges against them, but the California Supreme Court denied it in September.
CORRECTION (Dec. 20, 9:06 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated one of the charges on which former Sgt. Ian Furminger was convicted. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit theft, not theft.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced his resignation Thursday afternoon, sending President Donald Trump a letter that implicitly criticized the president’s military judgment.
In the letter, Mattis suggested Trump was not treating allies with respect and had not been “clear-eyed” about U.S. enemies and competitors.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” he wrote.
Mattis told the president in the letter that he should have a defense chief who shares his views.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote.
Many traditional U.S. allies have been frustrated by Trump’s open differences with them, and Mattis appeared to take the president to task for that in the letter.
“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” the general wrote.
“While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” the letter said.
The president on Twitter portrayed the departure as a retirement.
“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,” Trump wrote.
“During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made,” the president tweeted. “General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!”
The administration is now working with an acting attorney general while the interior secretary has recently resigned.
Congress passed a waiver to allow Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense; a law bars newly retired military officers from heading up the Department of Defense.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, referenced that move, which he called “an extraordinary action,” in praising Mattis. Thornberry said the only other time that had been done was when Gen. George C. Marshall was chosen as Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration.
“Speaking in support of the legislation on the House Floor I said, ‘I know of no one more respected, more admired in the field of national security today than General Mattis,'” Thornberry said in a statement Thursday. “His service as Secretary over the last two years has only added to the luster of his name.”