Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, SC was sued by a mentally handicapped African American man, who claimed he had been subjected to “severe physical harm” while under his employment. The lawsuit cited 14 cases of action including slavery, assault and battery, false imprisonment, violations of the Fair Labor and Wages Act and numerous forms of discrimination.
Well it took 3 years, but the new age ‘slave’ master has finally been brought to justice for his crimes and now faces up to 20 years in prison for the heinous act.
Edwards, 53, plead guilty to one count of forced labor this past Monday, June 3, 2018.
In his plea, the restaurant owner admitted to using violence, threats, isolation and intimidation to force an African-American man with an intellectual disability to work over 100 hours a week without pay.
As previously reported, the crime occurred at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, SC, where the victim began working at the age 12.
According to court documents, Edwards began managing the restaurant in 2009, at which time he increased the victim’s duties to work over 100 hours per week. Edwards stopped paying the victim and began using violence and threats to compel him to continue working.
Documents say Edwards used abusive language, racial epithets, threats, and acts of violence that included beating the victim with a belt, punching him with his fists, hitting him with pots and pans, and burning his bare neck with hot tongs as punishment or to make him work faster.
The abuse lasted until October 2014, when authorities removed the victim from the restaurant after receiving numerous complaints.
“Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows – in public places, such as restaurants,” said John Gore, acting assistant attorney general.
“Edwards abused an African-American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay. Combating 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.” (source)
While a sentencing date has yet to be set, Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison for forced labor, a $250,000 maximum fine and mandatory restitution to the victim.