A white manager at a restaurant in South Carolina was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for beating and torturing his employee who is black. John Christopher Smith suffered in silence for years as his manager physically abused and forced him to work for more than 100 hours a week without pay.
Bobby Paul Edwards who is 54 years old and a white male was sentenced to 10 years this week and ordered to pay John Christopher $272,952.96 in restitution.
Edwards pleaded guilty in June last year to one count of forced labor after he forced Smith to work extensive hours with no pay. According to the justice department the white manager used violence, threats and intimidation on the African-American employee at the restaurant in Conway.
Federal officials said, when he managed the restaurant between 2009 and 2014, Edwards hurled racial epithets at the victim, beat him with a belt, and hit him with pans and pots.
Smith was scared of losing his job and suffered severe intellectual disabilities. His boss Edwards would burn his bare neck with hot tongs to make him work faster, according to federal authorities report.
Eric Dreiband Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division said “It is almost inconceivable that instances of forced labor endure in this country to this day — a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation,” “The Department of Justice will continue to investigate, prosecute, and convict human traffickers involved in forced labor, seeking justice on behalf of their victims.”
The victim said in an interview with CNN affiliate WPDE, that he was prevented from seeing his relatives. In an interview in 2017, he was also forced to live in a room behind the restaurant, keeping him away from his relatives. And when his family came to the restaurant, the manager would force him to stay in the kitchen.
He told the affiliate that “I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”
Smith said he has been running tables and washing dishes at the restaurant ever since he was 12 years old but the incidents started when Edwards took over as manager.
In October 2014, a frequent customer noticed the scars on his body when he was putting food down and called authorities, who removed Smith from the restaurant. The victim is about 40 years now.
The NAACP office in Conway however pushed for a harsher charges after a local court accused Edwards of assault, a misdemeanor.
“We are talking about enslavement here,” Abdullah Mustafa, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said at the time. The organization was instrumental in helping file complaints with the Justice and Labor departments.