The news is out: [John Christopher Smith initially liked working at J & J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C., where he was hired at 12 years old.
For about two decades, Smith washed dishes, bused tables and cooked food at the small-town diner without issue. That all changed around 2009, authorities say, when Bobby Paul Edwards took over as daily manager and enslaved Smith at the restaurant for five years.
By means of physical violence, threats and intimidation, Edwards coerced Smith into working more than 100 hours per week without pay.
The abuse and threats were so severe that Smith, who is black and has a mental disability, was too afraid to speak up or go to authorities. He was freed when someone notified police in 2014, and in an interview with an NBC affiliate the following year, Smith said he wanted to see Edwards go to prison.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Edwards, 54, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on one count of forced labor, a charge he pleaded guilty to last year. Edwards was also ordered to pay Smith nearly $300,000 in restitution in a case federal authorities have likened to “abusive enslavement.”]
Can’t say South Carolina without thinking Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma.