A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Christopher Smith, a mentally handicapped African-American man, against J&J Cafeteria, Ernest Edwards and Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, South Carolina alleging slavery, according to a news release from McLeod Law Group.
The lawsuit states that Smith was beaten and mentally abused for almost 20 years by the Edwards brothers. So far 15 counts were filed against them including slavery, assault and battery, false imprisonment, violations of the Fair Labor and Wages Acts and numerous forms of discrimination.
In November 2014, Bobby Paul Edwards, former owner of J&J Cafeteria in Conway, was charged with second degree assault and battery.
Edwards was charged after a complaint of abuse and torture was made by the Department of Social Services.
According to the complaint:
Bobby would physically restrain Plaintiff to the premises of [J&J Cafeteria] and force him to labor and work, even on occasions where Plaintiff was sick and weakened to the point he had to be carried home and physically fed drink and food. Defendant Bobby would move Plaintiff into the freezer, cold locker, back office or other part of [J&J Cafeteria] to commit acts of physical abuse on Plaintiff. Plaintiff was forced to move to these areas under fear of severe physical harm and threats of severe abuse.
According to a Conway police report,DSS officials received a report from the South Carolina Governor’s office about a vulnerable adult who worked on location and was being abused.
When Smith was rescued from the restaurant he had burn scars all over his body, scratches and other scars from being hit with an object such as a belt, according to the arrest warrant.
Smith was living in squalor in an apartment provided by the restaurant.
NAACP Conway Chapter President Abdullah Mustafa said he is familiar with Smith’s story.
“In this particular atmosphere where he was at, he was conditioned and he feared going anywhere. That’s why he wasn’t able to break away,” said Abdullah. “Not only that, but when his mother and family throughout the years was going to J & J Cafeteria to see him, they wouldn’t even allow them to see him.”