A white South Carolina restaurant manager accused of tormenting and enslaving a mentally disabled black employee for five years is now facing charges of forced labor, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison.
According to the Post and Courier, the U.S. attorney’s office formally announced the charges against 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards on Wednesday.
Edwards was arrested Tuesday in connection with the indictment and, of course, pleaded not guilty during a Wednesday hearing but was ordered to be held without bail.
The employee in question, Christopher Smith, had been working at J&J Cafeteria, a restaurant owned by Edwards’ brother, for some 23 years and at the time had been paid only $2,842 a year even though he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week. He was hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs, and struck with butcher knives, belt buckles and more, all “while being called the n-word repeatedly,” authorities said.
He was ultimately rescued from his job in October 2014 after state social workers fielded a tip from someone who was concerned about his safety. His plight only became public the following year after his attorneys filed a lawsuit, accusing Edwards and his brother Ernest J. Edwards, the owner of the restaurant, of false imprisonment, discrimination and more.
Prosecutors say that Bobby Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to get Smith to work, sometimes without breaks.
If convicted, along with some well-deserved prison time, Edwards would have to pay restitution to Smith.
Smith’s lawsuit against the brothers remains unresolved, according to the report.
“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. “He believes that ultimately, justice will be served.”
Read more at the Post and Courier.