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A white restaurant manager in South Carolina has been charged with enslaving a black buffet cook for five years, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week.

The cook, Christopher Smith, 39, alleges that he was forced to work up to seven days a week, often for 18 hours a day without breaks, brutally beaten and threatened repeatedly, according to a separate civil suit filed in the matter.

Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, is accused in the indictment of using “force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to enslave Smith at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. Conway is just inland from Myrtle Beach.

Edwards surrendered to the FBI on Wednesday, waived a bond hearing for now and was jailed. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the federal felony of “forced labor.”

“We deny any allegations of slavery and abuse,” Edwards’ attorney, Scott Bellamy, told the AJC Thursday. “We don’t believe there was any slavery involved. That word — in the climate we’re in in this country, quite frankly — makes it even more of a story.”

He noted that neither the indictment nor the federal charge contains the word “slavery.”

The indictment, which identifies Smith only by his initials, JCB, says Edwards is charged under the U.S. Code section on “slavery, peonage and trafficking in persons.”

It says Edwards used force, threats and intimidation to “cause JCS to believe that, if he did not perform such labor and services, he would suffer serious harm and physical restraint.”

The indictment is brief and does not contain details of the Smith’s alleged treatment by Edwards.

Allegations of a brutal enslavement first emerged about two years ago in a civil suit filed against the restaurant. The suit, which names Edwards’ brother, J&J’s owner, as a defendant, is pending.
The 2015 complaint alleged that Bobby Paul Edwards beat Smith with a frying pan, burned him with tongs that Edwards had dipped into a grease fryer, beat him with his belt buckle and fists and routinely used racial slurs in speaking to him, according to the Post and Courier in Charleston.

Bobby Paul Edwards is facing up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and mandatory restitution to employee Christoper Smith is Edwards is found guilty on a federal charge of forced labor.
On one occasion, when Smith was too slow about restocking the buffet, Edwards took Smith into the back of the restaurant and beat him with his belt buckle, according to the Washington Post’s account of the lawsuit.

“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 read, according to the Post.

The Post and Courier said that Smith was forced to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant and at times was so exhausted from working that someone had to feed him.

Attorney Bellmany said Thursday that his client, although he is the subject of numerous allegations in the lawsuit, is not named as a defendant in the action.

J&J Cafeteria appeared to be open Thursday. A woman answering the phone at noon said no one at J&J was available to comment on the matter. “This was news to all of us yesterday, after he was arrested,” she said. She added that there would be no comment and hung up.

Bellamy, who has practiced law in Conway for nearly three decades, said he will ask the court for a bond hearing within the week. He noted that Edwards has been facing state assault charges for nearly three years. He said that case, in which Smith was the alleged victim, prompted the federal government to begin investigating. The state case is still pending.
Smith told WMBF in Myrtle Beach in 2015 that he began washing dishes after school at J&J when he was 12 years old. He worked there for more than 20 years when the alleged abuse began in 2009. He says it continued through 2014.

In the interview with WMBF, Smith said, "I want him to go to prison, and I want to be there when he go.”

Smith’s lawsuit says he never told anyone of the enslavement because he was afraid Edwards would kill him. The allegations came to light after a waitress told her mother-in-law of the abuse, and the woman went to state social workers.
Didn't he have access to butcher's knives and things?
and it was a restaurant, so he could easily have gotten rid of their bodies
A fucked a this statement starts off, it possibly ends accurate
Come to the dark side!
Was the black guy a retard or homeless or something? Only way this story makes any sense. How did he come to exist in this situation with no family or anyone to ever check up on him?
What the fuck
Ladies and gentlemen, white people.
jesus that man looks like the white version of me
If you bothered to read and were over 18 you'd know the answers. He worked there from a young age, and was forced to live in a shit apartment near there. A line cook like this guy makes minimum wage (and you can bet he was never given a raise, or payed properly because that would create a paper trail of the abuse). A full day in a kitchen starts before any other businesses are open, and ends after every other business has closed, and is physically and mentally exhausting at the best of times, let alone working open, mid, and close every day every week. One of the reason you're not supposed to work 18 hours a day is so you can actually do things like get to know people and form social groups, maintain family ties, buy and wash clothes so you're actually presentable in public, and generally be a human being.

If you ever hear about the working poor, this is it. You work a lot for little money, you don't have the time, money, or energy to get the training and go through the process of getting a better job, and if your employer simply doesn't offer you any way to advance (let alone actually assault you and break every worker's rights law in the book) then your stuck on the treadmill. That's how you get people who are working 50+ hours a week for years and still draw on welfare and other financial aid, because something as simple as 'getting a house that isn't infested with vermin' requires a commitment of time and money they can't offer up front.

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