Bobby Paul Edwards, In Prison For Enslaving A Black Man, Ordered To Pay Double In Compensation To Victim
A former restaurant manager, who is serving 10 years in prison after forcing one of his black employees to work over 100 hours a week without pay, has been ordered by the court to double his restitution to over $500,000.
The employee, John Christopher Smith, 43, is a black man with intellectual disabilities who was basically enslaved for five years at a restaurant in Conway, S.C. by manager Bobby Paul Edwards, 56. Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered by a court to pay back Smith around $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation at the restaurant J&J Cafeteria.
While this was the original deal, a new court hearing which took place on April 21 ruled that Edwards actually owes Smith $546,000, or double the amount he was owed from his imprisonment between 2009 and 2014.
Smith started working at J&J Cafeteria back in 1990 when he was 12 years old, and had loved working at the restaurant full time when the restaurant was owned by Edwards’ relatives. Smith says that when Edwards took over in 2009, the work environment became unbearable.
Edwards moved Smith into a roach-infested apartment which he owned, and Smith’s attorneys later described the place as “sub-human,” “deplorable” and “harmful to human health.” Edwards also threatened Smith constantly with the threat of having him arrested as well as harassing him with racial slurs.
“Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Smith said, according to court records. “I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”
Smith also stated that Edwards abuse was not only emotional, but physical. Court records say that he was whipped with belts and kitchen pans and punched multiple times by Edwards.
Geneane Caines helped put an end to Smith’s abuse when she reported Edwards to authorities in October 2014. Caines also had a daughter-in-law who worked alongside Smith in the restaurant and ended up getting involved because she became concerned about Smith’s safety.
Smith was immediately taken into Adult Protective Services after the assault had been reported, and Edwards was then charged with second-degree assault and “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.”
“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence. The U.S. attorney’s office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the watchful citizen and our partners in law enforcement who put a stop to this particularly cruel violence,” Sherri Lydon, a U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, said back in 2019.