Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, S.C., on September 22.
A white S.C. restaurant manager who has been 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.
Prosecutors say that Bobby Edwards "used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion" to get Smith to work, sometimes without breaks.
The charges against Edwards have since intensified and he now faces a charge of attempting to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking. A message seeking comment from his attorney, Scott Bellamy, was not immediately returned early Thursday.
Smith has been diagnosed with delayed cognitive development that results in intellectual functioning significantly below average. But when Edwards took over as manager in 2010, Smith said, the job turned into a nightmare.
The employee in question, Christopher Smith, and been working at the J&J Cafeteria for some 23 years and at the time had only been paid $2,842 a year even though he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week. Some days he would leave so exhausted and weak he had to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food". He said the manager would call him racial slurs, and threaten to "stomp" his throat and beat him "until people would not recognize him".
In one instance, Smith said, Edwards dipped a pair of tongs into hot frying grease and scalded the back of his neck.
Smith told WMBF in Myrtle Beach in 2015 that he began washing dishes after school at J&J when he was 12 years old.
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"Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, 'No, Bobby, please!'" according to the suit, which accused the cafeteria's owner of knowing about the alleged abuse but doing nothing to stop it.
All the while, Smith lived in squalor behind the restaurant in a roach-infested apartment owned by Edwards, according to the complaint. Smith's attorneys described the conditions there as "sub-human", "deplorable" and "harmful to human health".
In a lawsuit which Smith filed against the brothers in 2015 but dropped in favor of having the case pursued criminally, his attorneys told how he was often taken to the industrial freezer to be beaten. Both have denied wrongdoing.
"Costumers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn't tell them then what it was", Caines told WMBF a year ago.
In October 2014, Caines reported the alleged abuse of Smith to authorities. Local police, the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the NAACP got involved soon after.
In February of past year, attorneys for Smith dismissed Edwards from their lawsuit "without prejudice", indicating that they were considering amending their complaint or seeking remedies in criminal court.
An indictment was unsealed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of SC charging a restaurant manager from Conway for forcing a man with intellectual disabilities to work.
On one occasion, Edwards allegedly lashed him with a belt several times because he believed he had not taken food out fast enough to customers.
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