And now, for the latest edition of Wow: The Human Race Is Depressing AF. Reports have come out of South Carolina that a white restaurant owner, 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards, inhumanely employed and abused a disabled black man; the specific word being used in this case is “enslavement.” Edwards was charged with forced labor and indicted this week by a federal grand jury. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, per the Post and Courier.
The details of the alleged abuse are particularly stomach-turning. According to prosecutors, Edwards “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to push an intellectually disabled man named Christopher Smith to work under barbaric conditions. Smith, who WGCL reports has been diagnosed with delayed cognitive development, would pull 18-hour shifts six days a week—oftentimes without breaks, his attorneys said. They also claimed Smith was hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs, and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles, and fists, all “while being called the n-word repeatedly.” On top of that, Smith was paid less than $3,000 a year.
In 2015, Smith's attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Edwards, the restaurant where this enslavement and abuse allegedly occurred, J&J Cafeteria, and its owner, Ernest J. Edwards, Bobby Edwards' brother. In addition to possible prison time, Bobby Edwards would also have to pay mandatory restitution to Smith if the suit is won.
Edwards' attorney, Scott Bellamy, says Edwards is looking forward to seeing his name cleared. “The federal government has been looking at this for two years, trying to find something,” Bellamy said. “And he still maintains his innocence.”
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