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Man Who Enslaved Mentally Disabled Black Man At Restaurant Receives Prison Sentence

J. Reuben Long Detention Center, Google Maps

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.

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.

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.

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.

Edwards told his victim he had set aside a bank account for him.

This was a bald-faced lie.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

The documentary Nefarious, available here, takes a hard look at human trafficking around the globe and on our doorstep.


Written by Collin Gossel

Collin Gossel is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, New York, but there are nights when he looks up at the stars and wistfully thinks to himself “there’s got to be more out there…” You can catch Collin improvising new musicals every Tuesday night at the Magnet Theater’s Musical Megawatt, or follow his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @CollinGossel.--