A White manager who beat and enslaved a Black worker at his South Carolina restaurant for five years will finally face sentencing for his heinous crimes. Bobby Paul Edwards, 53, pleaded guilty to one federal count of forced labor, which carries up to 20 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday (June 6).
From 2009 to 2014, Edwards forced buffet cook Christopher Smith, 39, into working more than 100 hours a week by using racist threats, physical violence and intimidation tactics at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, the Post and Courier reported. Smith, who had worked at the eatery since the age of 12, has an intellectual disability.
The abuse that Smith endured was horrific: Edwards once dipped metal tongs in hot grease and burned Smith’s neck for not bringing fried chicken to the buffet fast enough. Smith was forbidden from talking with his family by phone or in-person at J&J and was threatened with arrest if he didn’t work under the terrible conditions.
It wasn’t until 2014 that state social workers came to Smith’s rescue after they vetted a tip from someone concerned about his safety, the Courier reported. A year later, Smith’s enslavement was detailed in a federal lawsuit filed by civil attorneys for Smith against Edwards and his brother, Ernest Jr. Edwards, who owns J&J Cafeteria. A federal grand jury indicted Edwards last year.
Edwards will face sentencing on a currently unscheduled date, the Post and Courier reported. He will be required to pay restitution to Smith as part of a plea agreement, however, the monetary amount hasn’t been determined.