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Racist South Carolina man confesses to putting Black man through enslavement, could face up to 20 years in prison

Edwards

Racist South Carolina man confesses to putting Black man through enslavement, could face up to 20 years in prison

By Susan Johnes

A SC man pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor Monday and could face up to 20 years in prison.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 53, admitted to using violence, threats, isolation, and intimidation to force a man with an intellectual disability to work for more than 100 hours a week without pay.

The victim began working at J&J Cafeteria in Conway at age 12. According to court documents, Edwards started to man-age the restaurant in 2009, at which time he increased the victim’s duties to work more than 100 hours per week.

A release from the Department of Justice said that Edwards stopped paying the victim and began using violence and threats to compel him to continue working and subjected

him to racial slurs.

Edwards denied Smith an opportunity to speak with his relatives by phone or in person at the restaurant and even threatened to have him arrested if he didn’t work.

Courts documents say Edwards used abusive language, racial epithets, threats, and acts of violence that included “beating the victim with a belt and pans, punching him with his fists, and burning his bare neck with hot tongs as punishment or to make him work faster.”

John Gore, acting assistant

attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said human trafficking through forced labor could happen on farms, in homes, and in public places, such as restaurants.

“Edwards abused an African American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay,” Gore said.

“Combatting human trafficking by forced labor is one of the highest priorities of this Justice Department and today’s guilty plea reflects our commitment to seeking justice on behalf of victims of human trafficking.”

Documents say the abuse lasted until October 2014 when authorities removed the victim from the restaurant after receiving complaints.

The ordeal emerged publicly a year later when attorneys for Smith filed a federal lawsuit alleging he’d endured years of “slavery.”

Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison for forced labor, a $250,000 maximum fine and mandatory restitution to the victim.

 

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