Diner man­ager held in en­slave­ment case

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - – Wash­ing­ton Post

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A white res­tau­rant man­ager ac­cused of en­slav­ing and abus­ing a men­tally dis­abled black man has been in­dicted by a fed­eral grand jury in South Carolina on a charge of forced la­bor.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors say Bobby Paul Ed­wards used “force, threats of force, phys­i­cal re­straint, and co­er­cion” to com­pel John Christo­pher Smith to work as a buf­fet cook at J&J Cafe­te­ria in Con­way, S.C., for more than five years.

Ed­wards, 52, was ar­rested this week and pleaded not guilty in open court on Wed­nes­day, shortly af­ter pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced the in­dict­ment, records show.

Smith, 39, who has a mild cog­ni­tive dis­abil­ity, had worked for more than two decades with­out is­sue at the J&J Cafe­te­ria, wash­ing dishes, bus­ing ta­bles and later cook­ing food at the folksy small town diner. But when Ed­wards took over as man­ager in 2010, Smith said in his law­suit, the job turned into a night­mare.

Ed­wards would force Smith to work from dawn un­til late into the night, seven days a week, with lit­tle or no pay, no ben­e­fits and no va­ca­tion time, Smith al­leged. Some days he would leave so ex­hausted and weak he had to be car­ried home and “phys­i­cally fed drink and food.”

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