South Carolina seceded from the United States in 1860, citing its right to slavery as the basis. While it lost the Civil War, that practice appears to have continued through 2015, as restaurant owners in Conway, South Carolina are now charged with enslaving a mentally disabled employee.
The 14 charges against Ernest J. Edwards and Bobby Paul Edwards, two brothers who own J&J Cafeteria, were filed on November 16. The charges included slavery, discrimination against race and disability, assault and battery, physical and emotional abuse and false imprisonment.
The victim is Christopher Smith, a mentally disabled African-American who worked at the restaurant for 23 years. In the last five years of his employment, he was forced to work 18 hours a day on Mondays through Saturdays and 11 hours on Sundays, totaling 119 hours each week, according to his attorneys, David Aylor and Mullins McLeod of Charleston.
His annual pay was a mere $2,800, the attorneys state, which was paid to a bank account that the Edwards’ brothers maintained. Smith was also kept in an Edwards-owned apartment directly behind the restaurant, one which his lawyers describe as “sub-human conditions.”
It gets worse, according to Smith’s lawyers:
(Smith) was hit in the head with a frying pan, burned and beaten regularly with kitchen tools, belt-buckles and fists while subjected to being called the “N” word repeatedly. (Smith) would be heard being beaten in the freezer, cold locker, back office and other parts of the restaurant screaming for his life.
Smith left the job approximately one year ago after the state Dept. of Social Services, responding to a tip, discovered scars on his back from years of abuse. Smith told his attorneys that he thought the Edwards would kill him if he made complaint.
Bobby Edwards was arrested after this investigation by South Carolina’s DSS, and is still awaiting trial on criminal charges of second-degree assault and battery.
Featured image from Horry County Sheriff’s Department via Post & Courier