Edwards would force Smith to work from dawn until late into the night, seven days a week, with little or no pay, no benefits and no vacation time, Smith alleged. Some days he would leave so exhausted and weak he had to be carried home and “physically fed drink and food.” Smith described Edwards like a slave driver. He said the manager would call him racial slurs, and threaten to “stomp” his throat and beat him “until people would not recognize him.”
Edwards beat Smith regularly.
Edwards also assaulted him regularly, sometimes taking Smith into the restaurant’s freezer or back office to keep others from noticing, the lawsuit said. In one instance, Smith said, Edwards dipped a pair of tongs into hot frying grease and scalded the back of his neck. On another occasion, when Smith didn’t bring food out to the buffet fast enough, Edwards took Smith into the back of the restaurant and whipped him with a belt buckle, according to the complaint.
What was Edwards charged with?
The full title of the charge is “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.” It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. If convicted, Edwards will have to pay restitution to Smith.
How long was Smith a slave?
In Wednesday’s announcement, prosecutors alleged Edwards held Smith captive from September 2009 to October 2014, an even longer period than Smith’s attorneys outlined in their lawsuit.
How did Smith become a slave?
Smith told WMBF he was 12 years old when he started working at J&J Cafeteria, a squat brick building on a sleepy thoroughfare in Conway that serves Southern comfort food and traditional diner fare. He liked the job until Edwards took over, he told the station.