A white restaurant manager in South Carolina was recently indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly enslaving a mentally disabled black restaurant worker for five years.
According to PostAndCourier, 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards is facing a felony charge for forced labor which could lead to him serving up to 20 years in prison.
The employee in question is 23-year-old Christopher Smith who is said to have begun working at J&J Cafeteria at the age 12. Smith has an intellectual disability but would still work 18-hour shifts up to six days each week, sometimes without breaks.
According to lawyers, during his time with Edwards, 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,”.
Smith is said to have made less than $3,000 a year while being forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant. He was rescued after a customer tipped off police following concerns that he was being mistreated.
Knowledge of Smith’s alleged enslavement came to surface in 2015 after his attorneys in Charleston filed a federal lawsuit against Edwards, and the restaurant’s owner, Ernest J. Edwards, the suspect’s brother.
According to prosecutors, Bobby Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to get Smith to work during the five years of abuse.
Edwards was arrested on Tuesday and plead not guilty during a court hearing on Wednesday. Edwards is currently being held without bond on charges of forced labor.
His attorney, Scott Bellamy said Edwards is maintaining “his innocence”.
“Bobby maintained his innocence three years ago” when the accusations emerged, his lawyer added.
“The federal government has been looking at this for two years, trying to find something. And he still maintains his innocence.”
In addition to the possible 20-year prison sentence, if convicted, Bobby Edwards would also face paying mandatory restitution to the victim.
Smith’s attorney remains confident that “justice will be served”.
“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.”
“and he believes that ultimately, justice will be served.”
Check out Edwards mugshot along with some other mugshots from recent arrests below.