South Carolina

Black Man Enslaved by White Restaurant Owner Should be Awarded More Than $500K, Court Rules

John Christopher Smith, who has intellectual disabilities, was forced to work at a South Carolina restaurant for over 100 hours a week without pay for five years

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A Black man with intellectual disabilities should be awarded more than $500,000 after he was enslaved for five years at a South Carolina restaurant, a court ruled.

Bobby Paul Edwards, who is white, pleaded guilty in June 2018 to one count of forced labor for using "violence and other coercive means" to make John Christopher Smith work at his restaurant for more than 100 hours a week without pay, the U.S. Department of Justice previously said in a press release.

As part of his guilty plea, Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was ordered to pay Smith $272,952.96 in restitution. However, a court ruled last month that the amount should be doubled and Smith should receive more than $545,000.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Edwards subjected Smith to "physical and emotional abuse" whenever Smith did not work fast enough or made a mistake. Authorities said Edwards would punch Smith, beat him with a belt and hit him with pots and pans. On one occasion Edwards dipped metal tongs into hot grease and burned Smith's neck, the Justice Department said.

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