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Porn fighter retires from prosecutor’s office

HAMILTON, Ohio – Less than three years after joining the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, Assistant Prosecutor Steve Tolbert retired Friday, saying after 30 years in public service he wanted to spend time with his family.

Tolbert – a former Hamilton County assistant prosecutor – joined the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office with fanfare in June, 2001 to head a special unit formed to fight child exploitation and obscenity.

He was quickly re-assigned to head multiple arms of the prosecutor’s office as newly-elected Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper compiled his young team of assistants.

However, about 10 months after joining the office, a family values group which donated money for the obscenity unit, publicly expressed its disappointment at the return on its investment. At that point there had been no indictments involving businesses that sold adult-oriented videos – something Piper had stressed in his election campaign to pursue.

That group changed its tune after Tolbert helped lead the Prosecutor’s Office in shutting down one video store completely and convicting another of obscenity charges. He also helped negotiate the cessation of hard-core pornography being offered at one Butler County hotel and initiated a still-ongoing investigation into other hotels.

The office has also won scores of convictions in Internet child pornography and importuning cases.

Now, the family values group – Citizens for Community Values – is applauding a job well done.

“I have nothing but high praise for Steve Tolbert and Robin Piper for the job they have done,” said CCV President Phil Burress on Friday. “They know if I didn’t like the job they’re doing I say that. This time around, praise is deserved.”

Tolbert oversees the prosecutor’s office special litigation unit – the umbrella under which the White Collar Crime Unit, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the Child Assault Task Force fall.

“I’ve done a pretty wide variety of things. Some child assault cases, some murder cases, child porn on the computers – I’ve tried juries in all those areas. It was a very well-rounded experience,” Tolbert said.

“I’ve enjoyed it There will be a lot of people I’m going to miss,” said Tolbert as he ended his last work day at the prosecutor’s office Friday.

When Tolbert was hired, he brought with him more than 25 years of experience at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office where he had headed the rape and child abuse task force and the obscenity investigation task force. His victories against adult entertainment moguls Jimmy and Larry Flynt and their Hustler News and Gifts store in that county was what first caught Piper’s eye.

Tolbert negotiated with the Marriott in West Chester to get it to stop offering X-rated films in its rooms. He also recently headed the effort to shut down My Movies and got a conviction on video distributor Pik Kwik this week.

“Though it took some time (the police and prosecutors) did their job, and that’s all any taxpayer would want. West Chester is a safe place because of their actions,” Burress said.

Tolbert’s cases have now been re-assigned to other assistants and Piper said he is considering restructuring some of the departments in the wake of the retirement.

“I don’t think it’s possible to hire anyone to take Steve Tolbert’s place,” Piper said. “He was the kind of prosecutor where if you said ‘I want you to climb in that boxing ring with your hands behind your back and fight Mike Tyson,’ he would do it. He was a tremendous asset. He did not back down form a tough case.”

Tolbert said he decided to retire because he has accumulated 30 years under his belt and it made financial sense.

If he decides to work again, it will be by choice, not necessity, he said.

“I’ve got a daughter who is a freshman in high school, another is in seventh grade. I’ll spend time with them. I’m going to play a lot of golf. When school starts again in September, I’ll see how I feel,” Tolbert said.

 

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