Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Butler hires anti-obscenity prosecutor

Task force cost: $200K a year

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Steve Tolbert, chief assistant Hamilton County prosecutor for 15 years, will head the Butler County prosecutor's new obscenity task force.

        Prosecutor Robin Piper announced Monday that he hired Mr. Tolbert to head a unit that he hopes will rid Butler of illegal pornography, especially that which exploits children.

        “Steve has the kind of leadership and skills that we're going to need,” Mr. Piper said at a press conference. “He has been an aggressive fighter of child exploitation.”

        Mr. Tolbert, who will receive an annual salary of about $90,000, recently lost an obscenity case in Hamilton County involving Elyse's Passion, a store in Pendleton. On May 21, a jury acquitted the store owner of obscenity charges.

        Mr. Tolbert said the outcome of that case doesn't discourage him about his chances of successfully fighting obscenity in Butler County.

        “I'm not willing to concede that one case sets community standards for obscen ity,” he said. “It's a fight that will be fought.”

        Mr. Piper also said he's not swayed from battling pornography by the fact that Butler County juries have acquitted defendants of obscenity charges in three cases in recent years.

        “Just because you lose some of the fights doesn't mean you give up,” he said. “We'll handle this on a case-by-case basis. If we get one or two convictions a year, it will be worth it.”

        Mr. Piper said the task force will focus on child pornography, child predators, Internet trafficking of obscenity and illegal pornography and obscenity.

        Mr. Tolbert will start his new job June 25. Working under Mr. Tolbert will be one full-time investigator and a part-time employee.

        The county commissioners recently allocated $120,000 to Mr. Piper for the obscenity task force. The task force's cost for a full year of operation is $200,000.

        Commissioners Mike Fox and Courtney Combs spoke in support of the task force at the press conference.

        “We will be a clean community here in Butler County because of this effort,” Mr. Combs said. “We're mainly trying to protect our children.”

        Mr. Tolbert has headed the Hamilton County prosecutor's obscenity investigation task force and the rape and child abuse task force and supervised felony and major-case prosecutors.

        Mr. Piper said he met Mr. Tolbert when they both served on the prosecution team for the 1993 Lucasville prison riots.

        Besides obscenity cases, Mr. Tolbert also will handle child-abuse cases and white-collar crime, Mr. Piper said.

        “I'm going to work to make a difference,” Mr. Tolbert said.


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