The restaurant owner who shocked the country after enslaving a disabled employee and forcing him to work without pay will likely see his fine doubled.
56-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards from South Carolina ran a Conway restaurant called J&J Cafeteria before it was discovered that he mistreated 43-year-old John Christopher Smith, a man with delayed cognitive development who started working for the cafeteria when he was 12.
The problems began nearly two decades after Smith first began working at the place due to Edwards taking over the restaurant.
According to the reports, Edwards enslaved the man by making him work 100 hours per week without any pay.For five years, he also kept Smith imprisoned in a tiny room where the worker stayed when he wasn’t busy cleaning the restaurant and washing the dishes.
“I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see my family, so that was that. That’s the basic thing I wanted to see was my mom come see me. I couldn’t see my mom and I couldn’t talk to nobody,” Smith, who had an IQ of 70, previously told ABC.
“I felt like I was in prison. Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted. I wanted to get out of there so bad, but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”
In 2019, as part of his plea deal, Edwards was jailed for 10 years and ordered to pay Smith $273,000. Now, however, an appeals court judge decided to brand the fine as insufficient and suggest the former boss should pay $546,000 in withheld wages and other damages.
As per the Daily Mail, court documents obtained by the publication show that the original sum didn’t include “additional equal amount as liquidated damages,” whereas the original fine was based merely on unpaid minimum wages.
Following the fourth circuit judge’s decision, the appeals court is sending their ruling back to the district court that came up with the original fine to get them to reassess the situation and recalculate Smith’s compensation.
If the district court proceeds by ruling in Smith’s favor, Edwards will be forced to pay the “equal amount in liquidated damages,” bringing his fine to a total of $546,000.
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