Modern day slavery sounds impossible to some, with laws and things in place to protect people from this type of horror. However its been revealed that one South Carolina man managed to do just that, enslaving an employee and forcing them to work despite any pay. The story is even more chilling when its uncovered that the employee was white man and the victim a black man. Even more disturbing is the fact that the enslaved man suffers from mental issues.
A ruling in South Carolina found that the former restaurant manager who was forcing a Black man with intellectual disabilities into slave labor and working over 100 hours a week without compensation, owes the man $546,000, double the original amount of his restitution.
Back in 2019 Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and ordered to pay John Christopher Smith, 43, $273,000 in back pay after pleading guilty to forced labor in 2019.
The newly revised pay out is a direct result of a April 2021 appellate court decision which found that the 2019 ruling did not account for federal labor laws properly.
“When an employer fails to pay those amounts (regular and overtime pay), the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of that money during the period of delay,” the court filing states in some documents obtained by the media.
At just the age of 12, John Christopher Smith started working for the J&J Cafeteria located in Conway, South Carolina. During the beginning of his employment the restaurant was ran by Edwards’ family. Court docs disclose that when Edwards took over the establishment in 2009, and immediately he began abusing Smith physically, mentally, and financially.
Edwards’s disgusting treatment included forcing Smith into insane labor with no pay, moving Smith into a roach-infested apartment with little to no upkeep, and isolating Smith from his family and friends.
Court documents detail one specific incident when Edwards placed a tong soaked in hot grease on Smith’s neck because he wasn’t moving fast enough on a buffet order. He was also slapped, punched, and hit with belts during Edwards’ tenure as owner.
Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Smith said, according to court documents. “I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”
“Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn’t know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn’t tell them then what it was,” a patron told WMBF.
Smith was taken into adult protective services and Edwards was charged with second-degree assault and “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.”