South Carolina Restaurant Worker Enslaved For At Least 5 Years
This story is sickening and insane. Slavery is still going on in this country!!!
A FEDERAL indictment unsealed Wednesday revealed that 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards, the manager of J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. has been charged with forced labor, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Edwards was arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty during a hearing Wednesday in Florence. He was ordered to be held without bail.
According to Post and Courier reports, Christopher Smith, has worked for J&J since he was 12 years old. He started out washing dishes and busing tables but eventually became a buffet cook for the restaurant as well. His 23-year tenure at the restaurant ended around 2014, after the mother in law of one of the waitresses contacted authorities out of concern for him. It’s been alleged that Edwards enslaved Smith for at least the last five years of his employment.
Prosecutors said Bobby Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to get Smith to work.
Smith has an intellectual disability, but Edwards frequently forced him to pull 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said in the suit. He was hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles and fists “while being called the N-word repeatedly,” the lawyers alleged.
“He would beat me with belts and all that,” 37-year-old John Christopher Smith told NBC local reporters after Edwards was originally hit with second degree assault charges. “Take the tongs to the grease on my neck.”
In addition to the abuse, Smith was reportedly forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant and at times was so exhausted from working that someone had to feed him.
Lawyers for Smith say he was paid less than $3,000 yearly. If convicted, Bobby Edwards would face mandatory restitution payments to the victim on top of possible prison time.
“Our client is very appreciative of the efforts put forth by the U.S. government in its investigation,” David Aylor, an attorney for Smith, said, “and he believes that ultimately, justice will be served.”
This is pretty disgusting stuff and it probably goes on more often than we hear about. Hopefully justice will prevail.