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EBENSBURG, Pa.(KDKA) — A former Johnstown pediatrician was sentenced Monday for sexually assaulting 31 children, most of them patients.

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Johnnie Barto, 71, was sentenced to a prison term of 79 to 158 years.

(Source: WTAJ)

Prosecutors say Barto spent decades sexually abusing boys and girls; most were between the ages of 8 and 12.

“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,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

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Flanked by several prosecutors and some of Barto’s victims, who are now adults, Shapiro told reporters that Barto will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“Barto actually thought he was immune from prosecution, and he played a long game to ensure that the families thought well of him and allowed their children to be near him,” Shapiro said.

The first abuse complaint against Barto was made back in 1999, but at that time, the State Licensing Board of Physicians cleared him of wrongdoing.

Then, two years ago, the family of Barto’s first reported victim went to local police in Cambria County and filed a complaint. Police went to the District Attorney, then Shapiro’s office got involved.

It was that complaint that launched the investigation which culminated with Barto’s December guilty plea to sexually assaulting 31 children.

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A total of 19 people gave victim impact statements Monday, some in person. They described how their lives had been adversely affected by Barto, how they felt a sense of hopelessness and how he made them fear doctors.