The South Carolina law firm McLeod Law Group released a statement yesterday announcing the filing of a federal lawsuit on behalf of a mentally handicapped black man, Christopher Smith, against J&J Cafeteria and its owners, Ernest Edwards and Bobby Paul Edwards of Conway, South Carolina charging them with enslaving Smith for years.
The 14 count complaint alleges that Smith was physically and mentally abused for many years as an employee and tenant of the restaurant and charges the defendants with slavery, assault and battery, false imprisonment, violations of the Fair Labor and Wages Acts and numerous other forms of discrimination.
This is a civil action looking for monetary damages for Smith. Last year, in November 2014, Bobby Paul Edwards, was charged with second degree assault and battery in connection with the same case, after the Department of Social Services formally lodged a complaint of torture and abuse.
In the warrant that issued for his arrest, Edwards was said to have engaged in a pattern of beating and torturing Smith, including burning him, beating him with a belt, choking him, slapping him and punching him with a closed fist. Smith had burn scars over all of his body and miscellaneous welts, bruises and scars from other objects like belts and belt buckles.
Janine Caines and her husband reported the abuse after a family member who worked at the restaurant and witnessed Smith’s mistreatment told them about what was going on.
Edwards is still awaiting trial on the criminal charges. The federal lawsuit is expected to produce faster results.