Man accused of enslaving mentally disabled cafeteria worker

Postado Outubro 12, 2017

Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, S.C., on September 22.

A SC restaurant manager has been charged with abusing and enslaving a mentally challenged employee, according to information released Wednesday by federal authorities.

Prosecutors said Bobby Edwards "used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion" to get Smith to work.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, of Conway has been charged with one count of forced labor.

Edwards is also facing paying mandatory restitution to Smith on top of prison time.

Edwards' attorney didn't respond to outlets' requests for comment.

Though the indictment was unsealed, it remained inaccessible to the public as of Thursday morning. He filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 against Edwards and the restaurant owner, saying he wasn't paid or given time off or benefits. But when Edwards took over as manager in 2010, Smith said, the job turned into a nightmare.

Smith, who has an intellectual disability, would pull 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said in the suit. Some days he would leave so exhausted and weak he had to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food".

Smith described Edwards like a slave driver. He said the manager would call him racial slurs, and threaten to "stomp" his throat and beat him "until people would not recognize him".

Traffic stop.
Alex Garcia  LA Times via Getty Images
Traffic stop. Alex Garcia LA Times via Getty Images

Smith's lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. "Take the tongs to the grease on my neck".

"Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, 'No, Bobby, please!' After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work", the complaint read, according to the Post. "[The victim] was kept from his family and forced to live in sub-human conditions in a cockroach-infested apartment directly behind the Cafeteria which was owned by Defendants".

Smith's lawsuit against the brothers remains unresolved, according to the report. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Smith had worked at J&J Cafeteria for 23 years, but accusations against Edwards surfaced toward the end of Smith's tenure as a buffet cook.

Geneane Caines, Smith's advocate, eventually learned of the abuse and reported it to authorities in October 2014. Federal Bureau of Investigation and civil rights prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice began probing the case against Edwards, who was also arrested on a second-degree assault and battery state charge.

In February of previous year, attorneys for Smith dismissed Edwards from their lawsuit "without prejudice", indicating that they were considering amending their complaint or seeking remedies in criminal court.

"Our client is very appreciative of the efforts put forth by the US government in its investigation", said David Aylor, an attorney for Smith, "and he believes that ultimately, justice will be served". "He believes that ultimately, justice will be served".

Smith reportedly starting working at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, when he was 12.