White restaurant manager charged with enslaving black cook

The 2015 complaint alleged that Edwards beat Smith with a frying pan, burned him with tongs that Edwards had dipped into a grease fryer, beat him with his belt buckle and fists and routinely used racial slurs in speaking to him, according to The Post and Courier.

In a lawsuit which Smith filed against the brothers in 2015 but dropped in favor of having the case pursued criminally, his attorneys told how he was often taken to the industrial freezer to be beaten.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday charged Bobby Paul Edwards, a 52-year-old manager at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., with one count of forced labor. Additionally, Smith earned less than $3,000 per year.

Smith described Edwards as a "slave driver" who forced him to work seven days a week from dawn until late night, with little to no pay (Edwards reportedly had an account filled with $30,000 of Smith's earnings, of which Smith was not given access to), no benefit and no vacation time. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the federal felony of "forced labor", according to the US attorney general's Civil Rights Division.

Edwards is also facing paying mandatory restitution to Smith on top of prison time.

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.

"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 detailed.

In an interview with WMBF in 2016, Smith said Edwards began abusing him in 2010.

Smith, who claims to have scars on his neck to prove some of the alleged abuse, said he never told anyone out of fears for his safety.

"Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on, and they would ask the waitress, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby, they wouldn't tell them then what it was", she said.

Edwards also assaulted him regularly, sometimes taking Smith into the restaurant's freezer or back office to keep others from noticing, the lawsuit said.

Edwards' attorney didn't respond to outlets' requests for comment.

Though the indictment remains sealed, numerous details surrounding Smith's alleged enslavement were revealed in a 2015 lawsuit against Edwards; the man's brother and restaurant owner, Ernest J. Edwards; and the establishment, The Washington Post reported.

Following the indictment, Smith's attorney, David Aylor, told The Post and Courier that his client believes justice will be served.

"I want him to go to prison", he said, "and I want to be there when he go".

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