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White restaurant manager in South Carolina charged with enslaving black cook
13 October 2017, 01:22 | Glen Norman
Bobby Paul Edwards 52 is accused of enslaving a development delayed black worker at his restaurant
Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, S.C., on September 22.
A white restaurant manager accused of enslaving a black worker for five years at a Conway eatery has been indicted by a federal grand jury. Edwards was arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty during a hearing on Wednesday.
The full title of the charge is "attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking".
It carries a 20 year sentence and maximum fine of $250,000. Edwards will also have to pay restitution to Smith if convicted. A message seeking comment from his attorney, Scott Bellamy, was not immediately returned early Thursday.
The federal allegations mirror some of those in the lawsuit. He kept his job for more than two decades, washing dishes, busing tables and cooking meals.
Smith's lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. Edwards joined as manager in 2010, and allegedly forced Smith to "work from dawn until late into the night, seven days a week, with little or no pay, no benefits and no vacation time". He said the manager would call him racial slurs, and threaten to "stomp" his throat and beat him "until people would not recognize him".
"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 alleged abuse but doing nothing to stop it.
The Post and Courier said that Smith was forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant and at times was so exhausted from working that someone had to feed him. Smith's attorneys described the conditions there as "sub-human", "deplorable" and "harmful to human health".
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. Both have denied wrongdoing. Waitresses feared speaking up and challenging Edwards, the mother-in-law of one waitress, Geneane Caines told WMBF in 2015.
Caines eventually reported the abuse and Edwards was arrested in late 2014 on a state charge of second-degree assault and battery, which is still pending, the Post and Courier reports.
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.
The attorney general notes that the indictment is "merely an accusation" and that Edwards is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The following year, Smith filed a lawsuit against him and his brother. Edwards's brother and the restaurant are still named as defendants, records show. "And he believes that ultimately, justice will be served".
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