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White SC restaurant manager accused of torturing, 'enslaving' mentally challenged black man

13 October 2017

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.

A SC man is being accused of holding a mentally disabled black man as a slave, psychologically and physically abusing him as he forces to work for the restaurant he managed, federal officials said.

Prosecutors said Bobby Edwards "used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion" to get Smith to work. Edwards was arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty during a hearing on Wednesday.

The charges against Edwards have since intensified and he now faces a charge of attempting to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking. It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He will also have to pay restitution to Smith. A message seeking comment from his attorney, Scott Bellamy, was not immediately returned early Thursday.

Smith, who suffers from mild delayed cognitive development, began working at the restaurant when he was just 12, starting out by busing tables and doing some cooking.

Reports about Edwards' behavior has emerged in the past, such as when Smith alleged to South Carolina TV station WMBF that Edwards had been torturing him for years.

Smith, who has an intellectual disability, would pull 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said in the suit. Some days he would leave so exhausted and weak he had to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food".

Smith's case reached headlines in 2015 when he sued Edwards for the enslavement.

Smith was reportedly abused to the point where he was afraid that coming forward would jeopardize his life.

They allegedly made him live in a cockroach-infested apartment behind the restaurant so that he could be at their beck and call. Smith's attorneys described the conditions there as "sub-human", "deplorable" and "harmful to human health".

The brothers allegedly told him they were keeping all of his earnings in a bank account but never gave him access to it.

Smith has become a "very happy, very outgoing" person since leaving the restaurant in late 2014, according to Caines. Both have denied wrongdoing.

He worked as a buffet cook at the restaurant for more than 20 years when Edwards signed on as manager in 2010.

"Costumers that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't know what was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, and the waitresses were so scared of Bobby they wouldn't tell them then what it was", Caines told WMBF previous year.

Smith was removed from the restaurant and placed in the care of Adult Protective Services after Geneane Caines, a woman whose daughter-in-law worked there, reported the abuse.

In February of a year ago, attorneys for Smith dismissed Edwards from their lawsuit "without prejudice", indicating that they were considering amending their complaint or seeking remedies in criminal court.

The incidents are said to have occurred between September 2009 and October 2014, but Smith allegedly didn't speak up sooner out of fear. "And he believes that ultimately, justice will be served".

Last year, Smith told WMBF that he hopes Edwards gets punished for his alleged deeds.