Meet 51 year-old Bobby Paul Edwards. Edwards posed for the mugshot above after being arrested for assault and battery charges in South Carolina last year.
The arrest sparked a federal investigation that revealed that the man Edwards was accused of assaulting for more than four years, was a Black mentally disabled employee of his restaurant.
Now a federal lawsuit has been filed which alleges that Edwards and his brother forced the man into slavery.
Christopher Smith, a mentally handicapped African American man, was subjected to “severe physical harm” by Bobby Paul Edwards, 51, while working at J&J Cafeteria in Conway. The lawsuit documents 14 cases of action including slavery, assault and battery, false imprisonment, violations of the Fair Labor and Wages Act and numerous forms of discrimination.
Details about this horrific crime below…
According to WBTW-TV. Edwards was charged with assault and battery in November 2014 after he was accused of assaulting Smith for more than four years. A SC judge granted a $10,000 cash surety bond and Edwards was released less than three hours after being booked into jail November 19, 2014.
According to arrest warrants from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Edwards is accused of physically abusing Smith on several occasions. The warrant states Edwards beat and tortured Smith with a belt or belt buckle, burned, slapped and choked the employee. The victim reportedly had burn scars as well as other injuries consistent with the alleged abuse.
The McLeod Law Group maintains that Christopher Smith was not paid for his service nor allowed work breaks or time off and was deprived of any benefits. They allege their client worked almost 120 hours a week for only $2,842 in yearly wages. (The math indicates Smith was paid less than 50 cents an hour at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C.)
In addition, the press release from the law firm states “defendants “maintained” a bank account for [Smith] to which he was never given access. [Smith] was kept from his family and forced to live in sub-human conditions in a cockroach-infested apartment directly behind the Cafeteria which was owned by Defendants.”
The warrant states the alleged actions took place over the course of more than four years.
“[Smith] was hit in the head with a frying pan, burned and beaten regularly with kitchen tools, belt-buckles and fists while subjected to being called the “N” word repeatedly. [Smith] would be heard being beaten in the freezer, cold locker, back office and other parts of the restaurant screaming for his life,” according to Smith’s legal team.
Edwards’ attorney, Scott Bellamy, says Edwards denies the allegations and won’t comment on the case until he has had a chance to review the evidence.
In November 2014, the NAACP reported it was handling a complaint associated with this case as well.
The Complaint is filed in the Florence Division of South Carolina District Court and demands a jury trial against Bobby Edwards, the alleged abuser; Ernest Edwards, the owner of J&J Cafeteria; and Half Moon Foods, Inc.