Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Restaurant Manager Accused Of Enslaving Mentally Disabled Cook

A SC man is accused of holding a mentally disabled man as a slave, psychologically and physically abusing the victim as he was forced into labor at a restaurant, according to federal officials, PIX11's sister station KTLA reports.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, is accused of using "force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion", as well as other tactics, to compel the disabled victim to work, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The full title of the charge is "attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking".

If convicted of forced labor, Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and mandatory restitution.

The disturbing case happened to John Christopher Smith, who was suffers from a mild delayed cognitive development, resulting him to function below average.

Reports about Edwards' behavior has emerged in the past, such as when Smith alleged to South Carolina TV station WMBF that Edwards had been torturing him for years.

He also claims Edwards was also forced to work from the early morning to late at night and received minimal, if any, pay. Smith was often so exhausted from working that he would have to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food", documents alleged.

Smith's case reached headlines in 2015 when he sued Edwards for the enslavement. The manager allegedly threatened threats to "stomp" his throat as well as beat him "until people would not recognize him".

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

According to the Washington Post, Smith alleged that Edwards dipped a pair of tongs into hot grease and scalded the back of Smith's neck. On one occasion, Bobby allegedly whipped Smith with a belt buckle for not bringing food to the buffet fast enough.

"Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, 'No, Bobby, please!'" according to the suit, which accused the cafeteria's owner of knowing about the abuse but doing nothing to stop it.

Smith was reportedly abused to the point where he was afraid that coming forward would jeopardize his life.

"[The victim] was kept from his family and forced to live in sub-human conditions in a cockroach-infested apartment directly behind the Cafeteria which was owned by Defendants", a 2014 statement from the law firm read.

Edwards allegedly told Smith that he had a bank account with more than $30,000 of his earnings, but Smith said he was never paid any of that money or given access to the account.

Smith's lawsuit against the brothers remains unresolved, according to the report.

The indictment is brief and does not contain details of the Smith's alleged treatment by Edwards.

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