Black man enslaved by South Carolina restaurant manager owes $ 546,000, court rules

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A former restaurant manager serving 10 years in prison for effectively enslaving a man, forcing him to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, must double the restitution he pays his former employee – to more than half a million dollars, a court ruled. .

Bobby Paul Edwards, a 56-year-old white man who ran a restaurant in Conway, South Carolina, has now been ordered to pay $ 546,000 to John Christopher Smith, a black man with an intellectual disability.

A recent appeals court ruling said Smith should receive double the $ 273,000 he was originally awarded in restitution after being enslaved and physically abused for five years.

Edwards pleaded guilty to a forced labor charge in 2019, after failing to pay Smith a salary from 2009 to 2014 while working as a buffet cook, and was sentenced to 10 years.

“When an employer does not pay these sums (normal pay and overtime), the employee suffers losses, which include the loss of the use of this money during the delay period”, recently ruled the court of call of the fourth circuit.

Smith started working at the J&J cafeteria at the age of 12, the Post and Courier reported.

Edwards eventually took over the parent company in 2009 and forced Smith to work 100 hours a week with no days off.

Smith was kept away from his family, called racial slurs, whipped with belts and kitchen pots, and burned with metallic tongues dipped in hot grease during what court documents called a ” reign of terror, ”The Washington Post reported.

“Most of the time I didn’t feel safe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted to,” Smith said, according to court records. “I wanted so badly to get out of this place, but I couldn’t think of how I could without getting hurt.

A woman named Geneane Caines had a daughter-in-law who worked at the restaurant and was aware of the treatment Edwards had given Smith. Caines reported the restaurant owner in 2014, NBC reported.

“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards earned every day of his sentence,” said Sherri Lydon, US District Attorney for South Carolina, when Edwards was sentenced.

“The US Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the vigilant citizen and our law enforcement partners who have brought an end to this particularly cruel violence.

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