A White South Carolina restaurant owner who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for enslaving a Black employee with a learning disability was ordered to pay $546,000 in restitution.
At the time of his sentencing in 2019, Bobby Paul Edwards—the restaurant manager—was initially ordered by the court to pay John Christopher Smith $273,000 in back pay and overtime after subjecting him to years of abusive work conditions with no pay.
A Black man with intellectual disabilities should be awarded more than $500,000 after he was enslaved for 5 years a… https://t.co/g2eJpaTC73— NBC News (@NBC News)1620202505.0
But an appeals court ruled Smith should receive twice as much due to federal labor laws that entitle him to double the backpay due.
Smith, who has an IQ of 70, had been working as a buffet cook at J&J Cafeteria in Conway. Under previous ownership, he was getting paid since starting in 1990 when he was only 12 years old.
But when Edwards took over the establishment in September 2009, Smith stopped receiving his salary. The unpaid employee was also moved into a run-down, cockroach-infested apartment owned by Edwards that was "harmful to human health," according to Smith's attorneys.
@washingtonpost This is the saddest thing I have heard in a long time. I cannot believe the other employees didn't… https://t.co/UcfpkyPS4z— Stephanie Kilburn (@Stephanie Kilburn)1620049903.0
@washingtonpost It saddens me to hear what happened to this man and acceptance of abuse that he took on for so many… https://t.co/eukVqzUT73— Sallymay Hay (@Sallymay Hay)1620049820.0
In the fall of 2014, authorities removed Smith after hearing about complaints of abuse.
Edwards pleaded guilty to not paying Smith his wages from 2009 to 2014.
Authorities said Ewards tormented Smith—who was identified in court records as "Jack"—by using racial epithets and threats of violence and other consequences to get him to work faster.
The physical abuse "Jack" suffered included being punched by Edwards and hit with a belt, pots and pans.
@NBCNews It's depressing to know that someone would do this to a challenged person. May he rot in hell.— Christine at Work (@Christine at Work)1620242326.0
@NBCNews What the hell is going on here. This is so bad in so many ways. Why would you treat any human being like this?— email@example.com (@firstname.lastname@example.org)1620203244.0
@washingtonpost My God! Words cannot describe... How strange that it took so long for someone to step in. The o… https://t.co/l84pCa884Z— DaNice D. Marshall (@DaNice D. Marshall)1620047035.0
What has this world come up to? https://t.co/51csocW45Z— freshpangolin (@freshpangolin)1620157162.0
Edwards also allegedly burned Smith's neck with a pair of hot tongs, according to the Post and Courier.
The court ruling said:
"Once, when Jack failed to deliver fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as Edwards had demanded, Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease and pressed them to Jack's neck, resulting in a burn that fellow employees had to immediately treat."
@washingtonpost Welcome to South Carolina please set your watches back 400 years.— get 'em boys 🐔🤙🐔 (@get 'em boys 🐔🤙🐔)1620044386.0
Court records also showed Smith was forced to work 100-hour workweeks.
His hours were 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, without any days off.
@washingtonpost Let's for just a sec ignore the conditions and abuse (and lack of benefits) and apply the lightest… https://t.co/BX5xw4B4uA— Billy D Starchild (@Billy D Starchild)1620029800.0
Smith was quoted as saying he felt like he 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."