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Horry County Sheriff’s Department

A South Carolina judge ruled that a restaurant manager who forced an intellectually disabled Black man to work without pay, owes the former employee a total of $546,000.

According to The Post and Courier, Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for forcing John Christopher Smith, 43, to work at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. over the course of years.

Edwards was originally ordered to pay Smith $273,000, but an appellant court overruled that decision, saying that Smith was entitled to double compensation under federal labor laws, according to court documents. The case was sent back to district court for a final ruling on how much Edwards has to pay in restitution, according to the Post and Courier.

According to the court, Smith stated, “I felt like I was in prison. Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted. … I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”

Smith started working at the restaurant at the age of 12 and was later promoted to buffet cook. Edwards started managing the restaurant in 2009.

The court wrote that Edwards “effected this forced labor,” and did so in an abusive manner by keeping him isolated from his family, threatened to have him arrested and even physically assaulted him for taking breaks after working more than 100 hours per week.

Judge rules S.C. restaurant manager owes more than $500K to enslaved worker  was originally published on