SC man Sentenced to 10 Years After Enslaving Mentally Disabled Black man

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 South Carolina resident and restaurant owner Bobby Paul Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to enslaving Christopher Smith, a black man with an intellectual disability for five years.

Smith worked for Edwards at his restaurant in Conway, South Carolina and was forced to work upwards of 18 hour shifts with no pay. These shifts often times ended in Smith being too exhausted to walk or feed himself. According to the Department of Justice, Smith worked more than 100 hours per week. Smith also lived in an apartment building that Edwards managed and was living in conditions deemed “sub-human” infested with cockroaches.

Whenever Edwards determined that Smith was not working fast enough or failed to do something Edwards would beat him using a variety of things like kitchen knives, fists and frying pans, according to court documents.

There was even a time when Edwards dipped a pair of tongs into hot grease and burned Smith’s neck. These instances of physical abuse were often paired with emotional abuse through racial slurs and derogatory insults.

It wasn’t until October of 2014 that Smith was rescued and removed from the situation after a concerned resident reported Edwards’ behavior to the authorities.

“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon for the District of South Carolina. “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.”

Along with his 10 year sentence, Edwards has been ordered to pay Smith about $273,000 in restitution.

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