A white restaurant manager pleaded guilty to forced labor charges Wednesday after making a black employee with mental disabilities work 100-hour weeks for no pay.
A federal grand jury indicted Bobby Paul Edwards, 53, in 2017 on charges of abusing buffet cook Christopher Smith between 2009 and 2014. Smith, who suffers from an “intellectual disability” had worked at Edwards’ restaurant in North Carolina since he was 12 and was frequently berated with racial slurs. Authorities charged Edwards with assaulting Smith and beating him with belts, pots and pans, punching him, and searing his neck with hot tongs to get him to work faster or to punish mistakes. Edwards pleaded guilty to the charges Wednesday, The Post And Courier reported.
Edwards’ forced labor charge carries up to 20 years in prison and his plea agreement requires him to provide restitution payments to Smith. No sentencing date has yet been set, however. (RELATED: Kanye West Says ‘Slavery Was A Choice’)
Acting assistant Attorney General John Gore claimed combating forced labor or slavery is a large part of the fight against human trafficking. Attorneys for Smith also filed a lawsuit against the J&J Cafeteria and Edwards’ brother, who owns the restaurant. (RELATED: What Is The Opposite Of Slavery?)
“This lawsuit cannot change the past,” Attorney David Aylor told The Post And Courier. “But hopefully it will bring about positive change in the future.”
Smith told attorneys that he never came forward in the past because he feared Edwards would beat or kill him.
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