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Although we’re some two decades into the 21st Century, slavery is seemingly alive in the United States of America. An imprisoned white restaurant manager enslaved a Black man with cognitive disabilities by making him work at his establishment five years straight without pay and a court is now saying the worker is owed over $500,000.
The Washington Post shared details of the case involving Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, who is currently serving 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2019 to a forced labor charge. John Christopher Smith, now 43, worked at Edwards’ South Carolina restaurant, J&J Cafeteria, in the town of Conway for five years without pay.
As part of Edwards’ sentencing, he was ordered by the court to pay Smith $273,000 in back wages, including overtime. On April 21, a new development in the matter raised in the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, ruling that a district court made an error in not taking federal labor laws into account thus doubling the amount Smith is owed to $546,000.
Smith worked at the J&J Cafeteria between 2009 and 2014 and was reportedly threatened and intimidated by Edwards with additional accounts of physical violence. According to the report, Smith worked more than 100 hours per week without pay.
Beginning in 1990, Smith worked as a dishwasher and bused tables at J&J Cafeteria when was 12 years old. The court documents stated that Smith enjoyed his work at J&J under the previous owners who were said to be related to Edwards.
Edwards moved Smith into an apartment he owned that was, according to the court documents, infested with roaches, and the court papers add the Edwards took advantage of Smith because of his disability.
“Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Smith said, as it appeared in court records. “I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”
In 2014, the mother-in-law of a co-worker of Smith’s had seen enough and decided to report Edwards to the authorities. Other workers were fearful of Edwards and feared retaliation if they pushed back.
After an investigation by authorities, Edwards was charged with second-degree assault and attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.
Smith was placed into Adult Protective Services.
We’d love to hear what Sen. Tim Scott thinks of this allegedly racism-free nation of ours after a story like this.