John Christopher Smith, a black man, was afraid to lose his job, but with intellectual disabilities he instead tolerated the brute force and humiliation of a bullying boss who beat and overworked him for years, federal officials say.
Bobby Paul Edwards is a white South Carolina manager under fire for his inhumane treatment of his black employee who he violently beat and intimidated with threats for years at an eatery in Conway, according to the US Justice Department.
Smith was not paid for years and suffered in silence, reports CNN. He worked more than 100 hours a week without pay while Edwards hurled racist vitriol, called him the n-word, physically abused him by beating him with a belt, and hitting him with pots and pans.
The 53-year-old bad boss pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor in the incidents. The incident allegedly happened between 2009 and 2014.
According to reports, Smith was afraid to lose his job and had intellectual disabilities that limited him. Edwards would burn Smith’s bare neck with hot tongs to make him speed up his work. He would also punch him with his fists.
“Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows — in public places, such as restaurants,” Acting Assistant Attorney GeneralJohn Gore said Tuesday.
“Edwards abused an African-American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay. Combating human trafficking by forced labor is one of the highest priorities of this Justice Department.”
Edwards confessed to using “violence, threats, isolation and intimidation” to force Smith to work despite the ill treatment, officials said.
“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” Smith said. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”
Smith was also forced to live in the back of the restaurant and held captive and couldn’t see any of his family.
When Smith’s family tried to reach him and visit the restaurant, Edwards would then force him to stay in the kitchen.
The NAACP believes Edwards should face tougher charges.
“We are talking about enslavement here,” Abdullah Mustafa, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said.
“This defendant abused a vulnerable victim, and today’s guilty plea holds the defendant responsible for his criminal acts,” said Sherri Lydon, the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina.
Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced, a $250,000 maximum fine, and mandatory restitution to the victim, reports CNN.