Court docket guidelines man enslaved by S.C. restaurant supervisor owed greater than $500Ok in restitution

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – An appeals court ruled that a man with an intellectual disability who was forced to work more than 100 hours a week in a Conway restaurant without pay owes more than $ 500,000 in restitution.

In 2019, Bobby Edwards, the manager of the J&J Cafeteria in Conway, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and sentenced to more than $ 270,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to forced labor charges.

A U.S. fourth circuit appellate court ruling on April 21 states that the district court’s ruling did not include an additional equal amount as liquidated damages as requested by the government.

The government appealed the ruling, alleging that the district wrongly included liquidated damages in its reimbursement surcharge for the victim, whose name is John Christopher Smith but who is identified as “Jack” in court documents.

Following the appeals court ruling, Smith, who has an intellectual disability and an IQ of 70, began working part-time in the J&J Cafeteria in 1990 when he was 12 years old. He later dropped out of high school and started working in restaurants full time.

Related reporting: “Cruel violence”: Federal judge sentenced man to 10 years of forced labor

In September 2009 Edwards took over the management of the restaurant. He moved Smith into an attached apartment and forced him to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, usually 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. for six days and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, according to court documents.

John Christopher Smith said Edwards abused him mentally and physically while forcing him to work in the restaurant for more than 100 hours a week without pay.(WMBF News)

Smith was also never given a day off and kept in isolation from Edwards, who threatened to have him arrested and verbally abused under the verdict.

Once, when Smith was not bringing fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as Edwards requested, he dipped metal tongs in hot fat and pressed them to Jack’s neck, which according to court documents caused a burn that staff had to treat immediately.

“Another time Jack made supposed mistakes, Edwards whipped him with his belt, hit him with kitchen pans and hit him with his fists,” the verdict said.

One affected resident was the one who notified authorities of the abuse, and Smith was removed from the situation in October 2014.

When Edwards was convicted, the district court ordered him to pay around $ 273,000 in restitution. The government asked for an additional $ 273,000 in liquidated damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, this application was denied on the grounds that FLSA lump-sum compensation claims are statutory punitive compensation claims that, according to court documents, are only available in civil cases.

The Court of Appeal concluded that “the value of the victim’s work as guaranteed under the FLSA’s Minimum Wage and Overtime Guarantee” includes the flat-rate damage provided by the FLSA.

“Accordingly, we are clearing the restitution and pre-trial detention of the District Court for the recalculation in accordance with this opinion,” the judgment said.

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