October 13, 2017
White Restaurant Manager Arrested And Charged With Slavery, Here’s What He Did To Black Employee
“I want him to go to prison, and I want to be there when he go.”
This was the comment that 39-year-old Christopher Smith made when WMBF in Myrtle Beach interviewed him about his lawsuit against his former manager. Smith had filed a civil lawsuit back in 2015 against Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, and Bobby’s brother Ernest, who owns J&J Cafeteria. The former employee alleged that the two men enslaved him, discriminated against him, and violated multiple labor laws during the time he worked for them.
The Grand Jury Indictment
Edwards, 52, was arrested this week and pleaded not guilty in open court on Wednesday, shortly after prosecutors announced the indictment, records show.
Apparently there is evidence to support Smith’s allegations because Bobby was just indicted by a South Carolina federal grand jury for forced labor, among other charges. Smith, a mentally-challenged Black man, was only 12 years old when he first started working for J&J. But for a five year period of time between 2009 and 2014, he was forced to work seven days a week, 18 hours a day, and was denied meals and breaks. Bobby was said to be verbally and physically abusive. The full title of the charge is “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.”
Smith said that Bobby scalded him with tongs dipped in hot grease and beat him with the buckled end of a belt. He also withheld some $30,000 in wages, denied Smith any paid sick or vacation time, called him racial slurs, threatened him with serious injury, and forced him to live in a filthy, roach-infested apartment that Bobby owned which was located behind the restaurant. Bobby and Ernest never reported more than $1,000 in earnings per quarter for Smith in spite of working him so many hours that he would have to be carried home and fed.
Bobby reportedly used fear and intimidation to keep other employees in line and silent about Smith’s plight. It was the mother-in-law of one of J&J’s waitresses, Genean Caines, who alerted authorities in October 2014. Smith was rescued and placed in the custody of South Carolina’s adult Protective services. The investigation and lawsuit ensued.
If Bobby Edwards is found guilty of the charges against him, he could serve up to 20 years in prison and owe $250,000 in fines plus restitution to Smith. It still wouldn’t be enough to erase the emotional and psychological scars.