According to the Post Courier, Bobby Paul Edwards, 52, was charged with forced labor by the U.S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday for enslaving employee Christopher Smith at a Conway eatery.
The full title of the charge is "attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking".
If convicted of forced labor, Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and mandatory restitution.
'This lawsuit can not change the past but hopefully it will bring about a positive change in the future'. A message seeking comment from his attorney, Scott Bellamy, was not immediately returned early Thursday.
In an interview with WMBF in 2016, Smith said Edwards began abusing him in 2010. Smith was often so exhausted from working that he would have to be carried home and "physically fed drink and food", documents alleged.
Extra, Edwards professedly stifled, slapped, punched and called Smith "the N-word over and again", his lawyer claims.
On one occasion, when Smith was too slow about restocking the buffet, Edwards took Smith into the back of the restaurant and beat him with his belt buckle, according to the Washington Post's account of the lawsuit.
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"Plaintiff was heard crying like a child and yelling, 'No, Bobby, please!' After this beating, Defendant Bobby forced Plaintiff to get back to work", read the complaint filed in 2015.
The combination of threats and actual abuse made Smith so afraid, the lawsuit said, "that he felt coming forward would be fruitless" and bring about "more aggravated abuse or even death".
Smith, who has an intellectual disability, would pull 18-hour shifts six days a week, sometimes without breaks, his attorneys said in the suit.
Smith was removed from the restaurant and placed in the care of Adult Protective Services after Geneane Caines, a woman whose daughter-in-law worked there, reported the abuse.
"Clients that were going in there would hear stuff and they didn't comprehend what was happening, and they would ask the server, and the servers were so terrified of Bobby, they wouldn't reveal to them then what it was", she said.
In October 2014, Caines reported the alleged abuse of Smith to authorities. Smith was rescued after state social workers fielded a tip from someone concerned for his safety. For his part, Smith said he wants to see Edwards punished for what he endured. Edwards's brother and the restaurant are still named as defendants, records show.
On Wednesday, Edwards argued not blameworthy to one tally of constrained work and was requested held without safeguard. Smith earned less than $3,000 a year for his efforts and had to live in a roach-infested apartment near the restaurant, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.