A white restaurant manager who enslaved his black employee could have to pay more than $ 500,000 in restitution, according to a court file.
Bobby Edwards, 56, was ordered to pay around $ 273,000 in restitution after being arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for enslaving John Christopher Smith for more than five years.
This amount may double after the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled on April 21 that the district court had not included damages in its restitution decision. According to the appeal, the government requested an additional amount of $ 272,952.96 in damages.
“Indeed, it would be incompatible with the law on the protection of victims of trafficking not to compensate a victim for the losses suffered as a result of the delay in paying the required wages and compensation for overtime.” Circuit judge Niemeyer Wilkinson wrote.
Smith was hired at the J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, as a dishwasher at the age of 12. He was paid fully for his work until Edwards began running the establishment in 2009, according to court documents.
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Faced with an intellectual disability, Smith became Edwards’ slave from 2009 to 2014. Edwards moved the man to an apartment attached to the restaurant and “forced him to work more than 100 hours a week without pay.”
“Edwards did this forced labor by taking advantage of Jack’s intellectual disability and keeping Jack isolated from his family, threatening to arrest him and verbally abusing him,” Niemeyer wrote.
On one occasion, Edwards dipped metal tongs in hot grease when Smith didn’t bring fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as Edwards wanted, according to a court document. Smith said he was whipped with a belt, punched and beaten with kitchen pots if he made mistakes.
“I felt like I was in prison. Most of the time, I didn’t feel safe like Bobby could kill me if he wanted to. … I wanted so badly to get out of this place, but I couldn’t think of how I could without getting hurt, ”Smith said according to court documents.
In 2014, a relative of a restaurant employee reported the abuse to local law enforcement and Edwards was arrested. He pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor and was ordered to pay $ 272,952.96 in restitution.
The appeals court overturned this award and referred the district court to recalculate.
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.