South Carolina man who enslaved, physically abused black man for more than two decades sentenced to 10 years
Bobby Paul Edwards, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor for making Christopher Smith, now 35, work without pay at the J&J Cafeteria in Conway
CONWAY, ARKANSAS: A white South Carolina man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for enslaving a black man who had intellectual disabilities.
54-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor for forcing Christopher Smith to work "for more than 100 hours a week for no pay" at the J&J cafeteria which he managed in Conway.
As per a Justice Department statement, Edwards was ordered to pay $273,000 to Smith as restitution.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ Civil Rights Division said, "It is almost inconceivable that instances of forced labor endure in this country to this day—a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation".
The federal prosecutors added that Edwards used to physically and emotionally manipulate Smith while he worked at the restaurant, reported Fox.
Edwards would often beat Smith with belts, fists, pots, and pans when Smith would make a mistake or if he did not work fast enough.
The DOJ statement continued, "On one occasion, he dipped metal tongs into hot grease and burned the victim’s neck. The defendant further yelled at the victim and used racial slurs to belittle and demean him".
The Justice Department revealed that a concerned resident had reported Edwards to the authorities which resulted in him being removed from the restaurant in 2014. Edwards was first charged with misdemeanor assault but a local NAACP chapter pushed for some more serious charges.
As reported by WMBF-TV, Smith had been working at the restaurant ever since he was 12 years old.
The US Attorney for South Carolina, Sherri A. Lydon had said that her office will not tolerate any sort of explosive or forced labor. "For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence," she revealed.