Federal lawsuit alleges slavery at Conway restaurant

(WPDE) -- 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 alleges Smith was physically and mentally abused for many years as an employee and tenant of the restaurant, according to the same release.

Fourteen causes of action were filed, among them, 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.
Federal lawsuit alleges slavery at Conway restaurant.

-- WPDE ABC15 (@wpdeabc15) November 16, 2015

DSS officials received a report from the South Carolina Governor's office about a vulnerable adult who worked on location and was being abused, according to a Conway police report.

According to an arrest warrant, Edwards engaged in a pattern of beating and torturing his employee, including burning him, beating him with a belt, choking him, slapping him and punching him with a closed fist.

Because of the injuries, the victim 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.

Conway police assisted DSS in the initial interviews of the employee, according to a Conway police report. DSS took the employee to an undisclosed location for his safety after he agreed to leave the business, the report said.

According to the Horry County Public Index, Edwards still faces those charges.

On Monday, WPDE called J&J Cafeteria for a comment from Edwards and were told that he no longer owns J&J Cafeteria.

We called another restaurant Edwards' owns and he declined to comment.

South Carolina law firm files 'slavery' charges against restaurant

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