A federal appeals court ruled by a French restaurant proprietor who pressured an intellectually disabled Black man into slave labour owes more than $500,000 in restitution, double the amount originally levied by a decrease district court.
Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, pleaded guilty to a count of forced labour, had been sentenced in 2019 to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of approximately $273,000. That sum represented unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation owed 43-year-old John Christopher Smith (referred to in the ruling as”Jack”), who Edwards”effectively enslaved” by forcing him to work at J&J Cafeteria in South Carolina”over 100 hours a week without cover” for more than five decades.
But a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit late last month unanimously ruled that the district court erred in only ordering the repayment of salary without including”an additional equal amount” in the form of liquidated damages. The Circuit Court vacated the ruling and remanded the case back down to the lower court for recalculation of double the initial restitution ordered, or $546,000.
As mentioned previously by Law&Crime, Edwards made Smith’s own life a living hell after taking over the restaurant in 2009. After Edwards came, he ceased committing Smith, who starting working at J&J part-time in 1990 at the age of 12 and has an intellectual impairment as well as an IQ of about 70. Edwards bullied Smith using”violent language, racial epithets, threats, and acts of violence,” according to then-Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. He beat him with a belt. He punched him. He struck him pots and pans. He burned his throat with hot tongs that was dipped in barrels.
This bodily abuse was to punish Smith for errors and to make him perform faster, prosecutors said, and it continued until authorities obtained a complaint from Geneane Caines, whose daughter-in-law worked at J&J. Adult Protective Services stepped in to help in October 2014.
“I felt like I had been in jail. Most of the time that I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Smith said of the living conditions under Edwards. “I wished to get out of that area so poor but couldn’t consider the way I could without being hurt”
The court concluded that, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the failure to pay an employee turnover and overtime in real life means that employee doesn’t only miss out to the owed salary, but also suffers”the loss of the use of the money during the length of delay”
“So completely compensating the employee demands accounting for reductions against the delay. These additional losses can, in part, be compensated by interest,” Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote for the courtroom. “Truly it might be inconsistent with the TVPA’s necessity of providing restitution in’the complete quantity of the victim’s losses’ to not compensate a victim for losses incurred as a result of the delay in paying required salary and overtime payment. And neglecting to compensate for delay would be especially egregious in this situation, where Jack wasn’t paid for many decades.”
Read the entire ruling below.
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