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DOJ: SC restaurant owner enslaved mentally disbaled cook

13 October 2017

A Black cafeteria worker in SC reported being abused and enslaved by his White manager.

Edwards, 52, was arrested this week and pleaded not guilty in open court on Wednesday, shortly after prosecutors announced the indictment, records show. He was ordered held without bail.

Federal prosecutors claim Edwards used "force, threats of force, physical restraint, and coercion" on Smith by beating him with belts and forcing him to work with barely any breaks and little to no pay.

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.

Court documents also describe assaults that included choking, slapping and closed-fist punches - all while his attorneys claim he earned less than $3,000 per year and was "called the N-word repeatedly", according to the Post and Courier. Several reviewers said the restaurant would likely shut down following the allegations made by Smith over his treatment under Edwards' management.

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Edwards's attorney Scott Bellamy didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment. The Post reports that there is also a state case pending against Edwards; he was charged with misdemeanor second-degree assault after the 2014 removal.

That didn't stop him working at J&J Cafeteria, a resturant in Conway, S.C. the 37-year-old began working at the establishment at 12, by washing dishes, busing tables rising to the chef duties.

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.

"Costumers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn't tell them then what it was", Caines told WMBF past year.

Smith was rescued by social services in 2014 after they received a tip from the mother of another waitress who said she was aware of the abuse but was too afraid of her boss to speak out.

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Edwards was arrested Tuesday in connection with the indictment. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the federal felony of "forced labor", according to the USA attorney general's Civil Rights Division.

"Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn't tell them then what it was", George Caines, whose daughter worked at the Conway restaurant, told WMBF in February 2015.

Last year, Smith told WMBF that he hopes Edwards gets punished for his alleged deeds.

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

Smith reportedly worked at J&J Cafeteria without problems for more than two decades, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

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DOJ: SC restaurant owner enslaved mentally disbaled cook