A South Carolina restaurant owner who forced a black man with a mental disability to work more than 100 hours a week with no pay was sentenced to serve ten years in prison.
According to the Root, Bobby Paul Edwards,54, was given the sentence more than a year after pleading guilty to one count of forced labor last June. Edwards was arrested and charged after it was discovered he physically abused and threatened Chris Smith to work in his family’s restaurant for free. Smith worked at J&J Cafeteria since 1996 and after Edwards became the manager of the restaurant, he stopped paying Smith. For 17 years, Smith was imprisoned, tortured, and lived in a roach-infested apartment while Edwards claimed he was depositing his paychecks into an “account” that had restricted access.
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The Department of Justice said in a statement that Edwards is ordered to serve ten years in prison and pay $272,952.92 in restitution to Smith.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the watchful citizen and our partners in law enforcement who put a stop to this particularly cruel violence.”
When Smith’s family would come to visit, Edwards would lock him in the kitchen or freezer. Often, customers would hear him screaming in the restaurant. Luckily, Geaneane Caines reported to the Department of Social Services after seeing Smith with visible bruises and scars. After he was rescued, Smith stayed in Caines’ h0me for two months while getting help from the NAACP.
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