Mentally Disabled Black Employee Was Reportedly Enslaved & Beaten By Longtime White Resturant Manager
After the case was brought to light in 2015, a federal grand jury in South Carolina has indicted a white manager on charges of forced labor on an African-American disabled employee.
The disturbing case happened to John Christopher Smith, who was suffers from a mild delayed cognitive development, resulting him to function below average. That didn’t stop him working at J&J Cafeteria, a resturant in Conway, S.C. the 37-year-old began working at the establishment at 12, by washing dishes, busing tables rising to the chef duties. It wasn’t until 2010 that Bobby Paul Edwards landed the position as a manager and Smith’s job took a turn for the worst.
Federal prosecutors claim Edwards used “force, threats of force, physical restraint, and coercion” on Smith by beating him with belts and forcing him to work with barely any breaks and little to no pay. “Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, ‘No, Bobby, please!’ After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work,” the complaint reads, per The Washington Post.
Edwards paid Smith a total of $2,842 and would also punish him by locking him in freezers and spewing racial slurs like the n-word.
The 52-year-old was arrested Wednesday (Oct. 11) and pleaded not guilty to the charge of “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.”
Smith’s case reached headlines in 2015 when he sued Edwards for the enslavement. While other employees suspected something was going on, it wasn’t until a waitress spoke to a family member about Edwards’ behavior.
In Oct. 2014, one of the waitresses informed her mother-in-law about the abuse. Geneane Caines called the police, and informed the Conway NAACP, and the Department of Social Services. Edwards was then charged with second-degree assault and battery. That case is still pending.
“He’s a total different person now; he holds his head up high, he’s very happy, very outgoing, he don’t even act the same,” Caines previously told WMBF. “It’s total abuse.”
Edwards, along with his brother and co-owner of the resturant maintain that they’ve done nothing wrong.
“He would beat me with belts and all that, take the tongs to the grease on my neck.” Smith said. “I want him to go to prison, and I want to be there when he go.”