White restaurant manager in SC charged with enslaving black cook

The prosecution unlocked Wednesday charged Bobby Paul Edwards, a 52-year-old supervisor at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., with one tally of constrained work.

If convicted of the felony offense, Bobby faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars and $250,000 in fines. Edwards pleaded not guilty in open court Wednesday, but he was ordered to be held without bail, according to reports. Smith was rescued during a field visit by the workers who received the information.

The employee in question, Christopher Smith, and been working at the J&J Cafeteria for some 23 years and at the time had only been paid $2,842 a year even though he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week.

His plight only became public the following year after his attorneys filed a lawsuit, accusing the Edwards and his brother Ernest J. Edwards, the actual owner of the restaurant, of false imprisonment, discrimination and more.

Bobby Edwards had already been arrested on a state charge of second-degree assault and battery, which remains pending, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and civil rights prosecutors from the Department of Justice also started probing the case. He will also have to pay restitution to Smith.

The lawsuit accused Bobby of holding more than $30,000 of Smith's earnings in a bank account that Smith had no access to.

"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.

Another instance reportedly involved the manager putting tongs into hot frying grease and striking them on the back of Smith's neck.

Edwards's attorney Scott Bellamy didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Saying some witnessed the alleged abuse, the lawsuit notes that Edwards went after Smith with a belt buckle for being too slow to replenish food items on the buffet line.

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. Bobby was charged with second-degree assault, which is now pending in court, according to The Post. Workers allegedly discovered scars on Smith's back and placed him into Adult Protective Services' (APS) custody.

Horry County court records show Edwards' rap sheet is lengthy and includes charges for burglary, assault, resisting arrest and shoplifting.

Last year, Smith told WMBF that he hopes Edwards gets punished for his alleged deeds. "And he believes that ultimately, justice will be served".

NAACP Conway Chapter President Abdullah Mustafa told WPDE in 2015 that Edwards intimidated Smith to the point where the cook was afraid to leave.

"I need him to go to jail, and I need to be there when he go", Smith told WMBF.



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