White restaurant manager in South Carolina charged with enslaving black cook


On Wednesday, Edwards was arrested on charges of forced felony labor.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, is accused in the indictment of using "force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion" to enslave Smith at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. Conway is just inland from Myrtle Beach.

Edwards is behind bars without bail. He will also have to pay restitution to Smith. An attempt to reach his attorney, Scott Bellamy of Conway, was not immediately successful.

Though the indictment was unsealed, it remained inaccessible to the public as of Thursday morning.

Smith has been diagnosed with delayed cognitive development that results in intellectual functioning significantly below average.

Smith's lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. Edwards forced Smith to work from dawn until late a night seven days a week, with little or no pay, alleged Smith, The Washington Post reported. Smith was often so exhausted from working that he would have to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food", documents alleged.

Smith described Edwards like a slave driver. The manager allegedly threatened threats to "stomp" his throat as well as beat him "until people would not recognize him". The Post reports that there is also a state case pending against Edwards; he was charged with misdemeanor second-degree assault after the 2014 removal. Smith said that he was scalded on the back of his neck with a tong dipped in hot grease and whipped with a belt buckle for doing things like not bringing out the food quickly enough.

"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 read, according to the Post.

They allegedly made him live in a cockroach-infested apartment behind the restaurant so that he could be at their beck and call.

At the time of the lawsuit, Smith's lawyers said: 'The conduct in this case is as troubling as anything I h ave seen in nearly 20 years of practicing law, attorney W. Mullins McLeod Jr. said. The lawsuit remains unresolved, but Smith's attorney is hopeful for a conviction.

The lawsuit accused Edwards and his brother, Ernest J. Edwards, the owner of the restaurant, of slavery, discrimination and labor violations.

Smith worked for 23 years at J&J Cafeteria, but at the end of his time working as a buffet cook, social workers were tipped off about the terrible conditions Smith was forced to endure. Waitresses feared speaking up and challenging Edwards, the mother-in-law of one waitress, Geneane Caines told WMBF in 2015.

Smith now lives and works on his own. Workers allegedly discovered scars on Smith's back and placed him into Adult Protective Services' (APS) custody.

In February of a year ago, attorneys for Smith dismissed Edwards from their lawsuit "without prejudice", indicating that they were considering amending their complaint or seeking remedies in criminal court.