For years, Bobby Paul Edwards, a 53-year-old South Carolina manager of J&J Cafeteria, inflicted extensive abuse onto John Christopher Smith, an intellectually disabled Black cook.
According to The New York Times, Edwards pleaded guilty on Monday (June 4) to one count of forced labor for beating Smith with a belt, punching him and even burning Smith with hot tongs. Edwards also used isolation and intimidation to coerce his victim to work over 100 hours a week for free from 2009 to 2014.
In 2014, authorities removed Smith, who has worked at the buffet-style restaurant since he was 12 years old, from the premises after hearing about the abuse. As the New York Times noted, Smith is now “around 40 years old.”
“Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows — in public places, such as restaurants,” John Gore, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement. “Edwards abused an African-American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay.”
Edwards wasn’t arrested and indicted by a federal grand jury until 2016 but is now facing up to 20 years in prison for his unspeakable actions. He may also have to pay a fine of up to $250,000 and mandatory restitution to Smith. The amount will be determined at a later date.
“I want him to go to prison,” Smith, told reporters when the story first broke. “And I want to be there when he go.”