A mentally challenged South Carolina man says that he was tortured for several years by the manager at the restaurant where he worked.
According to WMBF, John Christopher Smith, 37, who suffers from mild delayed cognitive development, says that the abuse started in 2010. Smith has worked at the J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, since he was about 12. He says he liked the job, until the brother of the owner, identified as 50-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards, who manages the restaurant, began torturing him. Smith says he didn’t come forward sooner because he was afraid.
Court documents describe things such as beatings with a belt, choking, and even one instance where Smith was allegedly punched. Smith carries scars on his back, which he says came from being burned by hot tongs. A doctor’s report from last October confirms the scars.
Geneane Caines, who serves as Smith’s advocate, became familiar with the case because her daughter in law is a waitress at the restaurant. She says that customers would “hear stuff” that was going on, and they would ask the waitresses, but, according to her, the waitresses were so afraid of Edwards that no one would say anything. Caines says she reported the abuse to the Department of Social Services, and she took Smith to an NAACP meeting, looking for help. In October, police and social services agents removed Smith from the restaurant, and took him to an undisclosed location for his safety.
After four years of alleged torture, Edwards is charged with a misdemeanor.
Edwards was arrested in November, and charged with second degree assault, which is only a misdemeanor. The charge outraged Abdullah Mustafa, who is president of the Conway NAACP. He says,
Anyone who is rational and has any sense of logic should realize once you have the facts right here, it should be more than just assault.
We are talking about enslavement here.
Mustafa says the NAACP plans on filing complaints with the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor. Edwards is currently out on $10,000 bond, with conditions that he not go near Smith, and he has to ask permission to leave the state.
Caines says in the time since Smith left the restaurant, he is doing much better. “He’s a total different person now; he holds his head up high, he’s very happy, very outgoing, he don’t even act the same,” she says.
For his part, Smith makes it very clear what he would like to see happen to Edwards. “I want him to go to prison, and I want to be there when he go,” he says.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for March 13.
Here’s a report, from WMBF: