Black man enslaved by South Carolina restaurant manager owes $ 546,000, court rules | Caroline from the south

A former restaurant manager serving 10 years in prison for effectively enslaving a man, forcing him to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, must double the compensation he pays his former employee – to more than half a million dollars, a court ruled.

Bobby Paul Edwards, a 56-year-old white man who ran a restaurant in Conway, South Carolina, has now been ordered to pay $ 546,000 to John Christopher Smith, a black man with an intellectual disability.

A recent appeals court ruling said Smith should receive double the $ 273,000 he originally received in restitution after being enslaved and physically abused for five years.

Edwards pleaded guilty to a forced labor charge in 2019, after failing to pay Smith a salary from 2009 to 2014, while working as a buffet cook, and was sentenced to 10 years.

“When an employer does not pay these amounts (regular pay and overtime), the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of this money during the delay period,” the court recently ruled. call of the fourth circuit.

Smith started working at the J&J cafeteria at the age of 12, The Post and Courier reported.

Edwards eventually took over the business from relatives in 2009 and forced Smith to work 100 hours a week with no days off.

Smith was separated from his family, called racial slurs, whipped with belts and kitchen pots, and burned with metal tongs that had been dipped in hot grease during what court documents called a “reign of the terror ”, the Washington Post reported.

“Most of the time I didn’t feel safe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted to,” Smith said, according to court records. “I wanted so badly to get out of this place but I couldn’t think of how I could without getting hurt.”

A woman named Geneane Caines had a stepdaughter who worked at the restaurant and was aware of Edwards’ treatment of Smith. Caines reported the restaurant owner in 2014, NBC reported.

“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards won every day of his sentence,” said Sherri Lydon, US attorney for the District of South Carolina, on Edwards’ conviction.

“The US Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced labor or exploitation in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the vigilant citizen and our law enforcement partners who have brought an end to this particularly cruel violence.”

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