Mentally Disabled Black Restaurant Worker Enslaved, Abused By White Manager, Prosecutors Say

Andrew Cummings
October 14, 2017

He could face up to 20 years in prison for forced labor felony if convicted. The manager pleaded non-guilty and was ordered held without bail.

"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 detailed.

And he got paid less than $3,000 yearly, they said.

Smith names the restaurant, Edwards and his brother Ernest Edwards-who owns the establishment and allegedly ignored Smith's reports of the abuse-as defendants.

According to the Post and Courier, the U.S. Attorney's Office formally announced the charges against 52-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards on Wednesday.

The lawsuit also accused Edwards of repeated abuse, saying he hit Smith with a frying pan and other objects.


Smith had worked at J&J Cafeteria for 23 years, but accusations against Edwards surfaced toward the end of Smith's tenure as a buffet cook.

And Smith, who is black, said Edwards, who is white, called him racial slurs.

Edwards also went after Smith with a belt buckle for being too slow to replenish food items on the buffet line, according to the lawsuit, which also noted that others witnessed the alleged abuse.

Sometimes he was so exhausted that someone else had to feed him. Smith's attorneys described the conditions there as "sub-human", "deplorable" and "harmful to human health".

The lawsuit accused Bobby of holding more than $30,000 of Smith's earnings in a bank account that Smith had no access to. The company reported paying him less than $1,000 per quarter, despite the fact that he was working 18-hour days.

A white eatery administrator in SC has been arraigned for professedly oppressing a dark specialist with advancement delays for a long time and utilizing physical manhandle to constrain him to act as a smorgasbord cook.


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

In October 2014, Caines reported the alleged abuse of Smith to authorities.

"Customers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on", said Geneane Caines, whose daughter-in-law worked at J&J, "and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn't tell them then what it was". He was immediately placed in the custody of Adult Protective Services.

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.

Smith told WMBF he was 12 years old when he started working at J&J Cafeteria, a squat brick building on a sleepy thoroughfare in Conway that serves Southern comfort food and traditional diner fare. For his part, Smith said he wants to see Edwards punished for what he endured.


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