A White man named Bobby Paul Edwards was arrested in 2017 for enslaving a mentally disabled Black man.
Edwards forced the man to work for no pay—over 100 hours a week—in his restaurant under threat of physical and mental abuse.
Edwards was just sentenced to 10 years in prison for his crimes.
Bobby Paul Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $272,952 in restitution. Edwards pleaded guilty in June '18 to one count of forced labor for coercing an African-American man w/ an intellectual disability to work extensive hours at a restaurant for no pay https://t.co/RuLPhji6eA
— Gavin Jackson (@GavinJackson) November 6, 2019
Edwards cut a plea deal in which he admitted to “forced labor,” while also agreeing to pay his victim $272,952.96.
Given the inhumane nature of Edwards’ crime, however, many feel ten years in prison is far from enough.
This is a people should be taking to the streets kind of crime. Bobby Paul Edwards should be SHAMED for the rest of his life, he should have to do so much more for his crimes. ENSLAVING an intellectually disabled Black man, torturing him for years, this is the worst of humanity.
— Jo Kaur (@SikhFeminist) November 8, 2019
Edwards’ victim—who forensic pathologists place between seven and nine years old mentally—worked at Edwards’ restaurant since 1990.
As a 12 year-old, he originally started as a paid dishwasher. He was later promoted to buffet cook.
In 2008, however, Edwards was made full manager of the restaurant. One of his first orders of business was to stop paying his then 30 year-old victim.
"Bobby Paul Edwards a 10-year prison sentence". This man should be in prison for life. What he did to Smith is worse than any prison sentence. Why did no one report this while it was going on? Surely, someone knew what Edwards was doing.
— LRFalstad (@LRFalstad) November 8, 2019
Things continued to worsen.
Because of his financial situation, the next year the man was forced to move into an old apartment behind the restaurant.
Then Edwards changed the man’s hours to “6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays,” effectively ordering him to work over 100 hours a week.
For absolutely no pay.
In a lawsuit filed in 2015, John Christopher Smith compared Bobby Paul Edwards to a slave driver. He said his manager called him racial slurs, and threatened to "stomp" his throat and beat him "until people would not recognize him."
— The Marshall Project (@MarshallProj) November 8, 2019
Edwards told his victim he had set aside a bank account for him.
This was a bald-faced lie.
THAT’s ALL?? If you can find any justification for this guy’s actions then I don’t know what to tell you. This does tell me we need to re-evaluate some sentencing guidelines.
Bobby Paul Edwards gets 10 years in prison for torturing a black employee – CNN https://t.co/t88sQhhGc6
— Sports and Law (@mercernole) November 9, 2019
Meanwhile, Edwards was known to abuse the mentally disabled man, whipping him with his belt and striking him with kitchen pans.
Reports also recall one particularly egregious instance where, as punishment for a slow chicken delivery, Edwards used tongs dipped in grease to burn the victim’s neck.
Bobby Paul Edwards, age 54 tortured and enslaved a disabled black man for 10 years. He ran J&J Cafeteria in Conway, SC.
Why is he the only one arrested? Everyone there had to know. https://t.co/NZpFwUoYKG
— No Lightskinned Macaroni (@realfacade1) November 9, 2019
The victim was not allowed to speak to his family or stop working or else risk further violence and abuse.
In 2014, a mother-in-law of one of the restaurant’s workers reported the issue to the police. When authorities arrived on the scene, the victim “immediately” told them “he wanted to leave.”
From there the investigation lead to Edwards arrest, conviction and sentencing.
that same black man could have gotten more time than that for a nonviolent drug charge but ok
— so very very tired (@bisousetthe) November 11, 2019
For these horrendous crimes, tantamount to slavery, Edwards was sentenced to only 10 years in prison.
US Attorney Sherri A. Lydon issued a statement, saying:
“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the watchful citizen and our partners in law enforcement who put a stop to this particularly cruel violence.”
He needs a life sentence pos
— Heather Tucker (@Heather06092013) November 11, 2019
FBI Special Agent Jody Norris also issued a statement reminding the public that human trafficking can come in many forms and that our vigilance can save lives.
“This abusive enslavement of a vulnerable person is shocking. The FBI is always vigilantly searching for these offenses and stands ready to bring perpetrators to justice and help victims reclaim their lives.”