The manager of the restaurant White Conway “enslaved black employee”


A fast food restaurant manager has been arrested on suspicion of enslaving and abusing a mentally disabled black employee for five years.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, has been charged with abusing John Christopher Smith, 39, at his fast food restaurant J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, over a five-year period.

Prosecutors say Edwards and his brother Ernest, who owns the restaurant but has not been arrested, forced Smith to work 18 hours a day and paid him less than $ 3,000 a year between 2009 and 2014.

They allegedly made him live in a cockroach-infested apartment behind the restaurant so that he could be fully available to them.

Smith has been diagnosed in the past with mildly delayed cognitive development, a condition that results in significantly below average intellectual functioning.

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Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, charged with enslaving John Christopher Smith, 39, over five years

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, left, is accused of enslaving John Christopher Smith, 39, right, over a five-year period

Other staff are said to have been aware of the sickening abuse, but are too afraid to report their bosses.

In a lawsuit that Smith brought against the brothers in 2015 but dropped in favor of prosecution of the case, his lawyers explained that he was often taken to the industrial freezer to be beaten.

On one occasion, Edwards allegedly repeatedly whipped him with a belt because he thought he hadn’t pulled out food quickly enough for customers.

Smith’s attorneys said other employees heard him cry, “No, Bobby, please!”

They said he was forced to work 18 hours a day during the week and had to work 11 hours on Sundays.

The brothers reportedly told him that they kept all of his earnings in a bank account but never gave him access to it.

Video courtesy of WPDE

The alleged abuse took place at the J&J cafeteria in Conway, SC, which Edwards managed and where Smith worked

The alleged abuse took place at the J&J cafeteria in Conway, SC, which Edwards managed and where Smith worked

During shifts, they beat him with belt buckles, frying pans, and their fists, and repeatedly called him the N word, according to the lawsuit.

Smith was rescued by social services in 2014 after receiving a tip from the mother of another waitress who said she knew about the abuse but was too afraid of her boss to speak out.

Smith now lives and works alone.  He has been diagnosed with mildly delayed cognitive development in the past.  Image courtesy of WMFB News

Smith now lives and works alone. He has been diagnosed with mildly delayed cognitive development in the past. Image courtesy of WMFB News

Smith was taken into the care of Adult Protective Services and Edwards was charged with assault and battery.

Edwards was released on bail pending further legal action. The following year, Smith filed a lawsuit against him and his brother.

Charges against Edwards have since escalated and he now faces a charge of attempted peonage establishment, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.

It carries a 20-year sentence and a maximum fine of $ 250,000.

At the time of the trial, Smith’s attorneys said: “The conduct in this case is as disturbing as anything I have seen in nearly 20 years of practicing law,” said attorney W. Mullins McLeod Jr. “.

David Aylor, another of his lawyers, said: “We will fight for justice for Christopher and send the message that we will not stand idly by while one of our own is forced to endure such outrageous abuse. .

“This trial cannot change the past, but I hope it will bring positive change in the future.”

It is not known how Smith was separated from his family. He was not reunited with them after being removed from his post at the J&J cafeteria in 2014.

About Vivian J. Smith

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