White restaurant manager enslaved black buffet cook

Federal prosecutors say Bobby Paul Edwards used "force, threats of force, physical restraint, and coercion" to compel John Christopher Smith to work as a buffet cook at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., for more than five years. The charges of "attempting to established peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or human trafficking" carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

He was arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to forced labor the following day, federal court records show.

Smith reportedly starting working at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, when he was 12. Smith was rescued during a field visit by the workers who received the information.

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.

Following the indictment, Smith's attorney, David Aylor, told The Post and Courier that his client believes justice will be served.

Edwards forced Smith to work from dawn until late a night seven days a week, with little or no pay, alleged Smith, The Washington Post reported.

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.

In addition to possible prison time if he's convicted, Edwards would face paying mandatory restitution to Smith.

"He would beat me with belts and all that, take the tongs to the grease on my neck".

"Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, 'No, Bobby, please!' After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work", the complaint read, according to the Post.

Smith, a 39-year-old with a mild cognitive disability, had worked for more than two decades without issue at the J&J Cafeteria, washing dishes, busing tables and later cooking food at the folksy small town diner.

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

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.

Smith has become a "very happy, very outgoing" person since leaving the restaurant in late 2014, according to Caines.

Geneane Caines, Smith's advocate, eventually learned of the abuse and reported it to authorities in October 2014. Workers allegedly discovered scars on Smith's back and placed him into Adult Protective Services' (APS) custody.

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.

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

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