The term "modern day slavery" shouldn't exist, but alas ... there are still many people enslaved today.
Bobby Paul Edwards, a white restaurant manager in Conway, South Carolina, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a forced labor charge for enslaving and abusing a mentally disabled black man, John Christopher Smith.
According to the Washington Post, prosecutors claim that Edwards used “force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to manipulate Smith — who has a mild cognitive disability — into working as a buffet cook at J&J Cafeteria for over five years.
Edwards was officially charged with “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking,” and faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and will be required to pay restitution to Smith. The restaurant owner and the manager's brother, Ernest J. Edwards, was also accused of slavery, discrimination and labor violations.
Smith described Edwards as a "slave driver" who forced him to work seven days a week from dawn until late night, with little to no pay (Edwards reportedly had an account filled with $30,000 of Smith's earnings, of which Smith was not given access to), no benefit and no vacation time.
The 39-year-old also accused Edwards of using racial slurs against him, testifying that Edwards threatened to “stomp” his throat and to beat him “until people would not recognize him.”
Smith also claimed Edwards carried through on his threats to assault him on various occasions. Smith said that he was scalded on the back of his neck with a tong dipped in hot grease and whipped with a belt buckle for doing things like not bringing out the food quickly enough.
“Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, ‘No, Bobby, please!’ After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work,” read the complaint filed in 2015.
Naturally, Smith was too afraid to come forward because he believed that he would just receive more of the same ... or worse.
According to Geneane Caines, who had a daughter-in-law that worked in the restaurant, abuse was part of the overall culture. “Customers 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.
“I want [Edwards] to go to prison,” said Smith who had worked at the restaurant since he was 12 years old. “And I want to be there when he go.”