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Pediatrician Sentenced To At Least 79 Years In Prison For Sexually Assaulting 31 Children

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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.

Crime

Bo Dukes Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison For Covering Up Death of Tara Grinstead

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ABBEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A man convicted of helping hide the death of a missing Georgia teacher has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

News outlets reported that 34-year-old Bo Dukes was sentenced Friday morning in court in Abbeville.

Dukes was convicted Thursday night of lying to investigators about the 2005 death of Tara Grinstead. The high school history teacher’s body was burned to ash and bone fragments in a pecan orchard.

What happened to the woman wasn’t revealed until Dukes and another man were arrested in 2017.

Dukes was convicted of two counts of making a false statement, hindering the arrest of a criminal and concealing a death.

His co-defendant, Ryan Alexander Duke, is charged with murder in Grinstead’s death and is scheduled for trial April 1 in Irwin County.

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Crime

US Supreme Court Agrees To Decide Whether Lee Boyd Malvo Gets A New Sentence

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March 18 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether a gunman in the 2002 Beltway Sniper case should receive a new sentence because he was a teenager at the time.

The random shootings terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in September and October 2002 and killed 10 people. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad were ultimately captured and convicted of the sniper killings. Muhammad was executed in 2009 and Malvo is serving six consecutive life sentences. At the time of the shootings, Malvo was 17.

The Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari Monday to hear the appeal next term.

At issue is a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that said juveniles cannot be given mandatory life-without-parole sentences unless they committed murder or were determined permanently incorrigible.

A Virginia court last year vacated Malvo’s sentences and asked a trial court to rule on whether his crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility or “the transient nature of youth.”

Malvo is now 34 years old.

A U.S. Court of Appeals panel called the Beltway shootings “the most heinous, random acts of premeditated violence conceivable, destroying lives and families and terrorizing the entire Washington D.C., metropolitan area for over six weeks, instilling mortal fear daily in the citizens of that community.”

The judges said, “Malvo was 17 years old when he committed the murders, and he now has the retroactive benefit of new constitutional rules that treat juveniles differently for sentencing.”

Malvo faces life without parole in Maryland, where he killed six people. That sentence was upheld in 2017 and is pending at the state Supreme Court. Muhammad, who was 25 years older than Malvo, smuggled him into the country illegally from Antigua.

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Crime

First Murder Trial in Tara Grinstead Case Begins

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ABBEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man is standing trial on charges that he helped conceal the death of a high school teacher who disappeared more than 13 years ago.

Bo Dukes is charged with concealing a death, hindering the apprehension of a felon and lying to police after Tara Grinstead vanished from her home in rural Irwin County in October 2005. His trial began Monday in neighboring Wilcox County.

Prosecutors say Dukes’ friend, Ryan Duke, killed Grinstead and enlisted Dukes’ to help burn her body. Both men were arrested in 2017. Duke is charged with murder. His trial is scheduled to start April 1.

John McCullough testified Tuesday that he befriended Dukes during Army basic training in 2006. He said Dukes confessed to him a few weeks after they met.

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