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Man beaten, abused while working at restaurant reacts to boss’ potential sentence

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CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) — The man who was tortured and beaten for several years while working at J & J Cafeteria spoke exclusively to ABC15 News about his former boss’ guilty plea last week.

Bobby Edwards faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“That’s what they say,” said Smith Monday. “It ain’t what he gon get. Whatever [the] judge give him, he gon get and I don’t know what [the] judge gonna give him.”

Christopher Smith is now 39 years old. He started working at J and J Cafeteria when he was 12.

Bobby Edwards became the manager in 2009, but when he did, Chris said, he refused to pay him, made him sleep in a building attached to the restaurant and repeatedly abused him.

“[He’s] the devil, evil, mean, cruel,” said Smith.

Smith said he’s happy his former boss is getting punished, but hoped for a trial. He said he felt like Edwards could serve more time after a trial, rather than his guilty plea.

Without the trial, he’s worried Edwards won’t see much jail time.

Abdullah Mustafa of the Conway NAACP has helped Smith over the years.

“It should be the max [sentence], okay? Actually, it should be beyond max cause this is an issue of clear racism, white supremacy and discrimination in the South,” he said.

His experience with Edwards still gives him painful flashbacks. Sometimes nightmares.

“Every day, every night. Now I can’t sleep,” he said.

Mustafa said it’s easy to understand why.

“Imagine a young child at 12 years old brutalized. This is inhumane treatment. Inhumane treatment is what we’re talking about here,” he said.

Now, the 39-year-old is focused on his new life, and is waiting for Edwards’ sentencing.

“Hopefully, the sentence will be the max,” he said. “But, again, time will tell.”

Smith’s attorneys released a statement on the plea Monday.

“I would give credit to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice for their thorough investigation, indictment and plea for the horrendous acts of violence, abuse, threats, racial epithets, abusive language, forced labor, isolation and human trafficking against our client, Mr. Smith,” said his attorney David Aylor.

“Mr. Smith is a mentally-challenged worker, has endured years of abuse and will require years of additional health care needs for both his physical injuries and his mental health well-being. We will continue to pursue our civil action to ensure Mr. Smith receives the ongoing care and compassion that he will need for the years to come,” said his other attorney, Mullins McLeod.

ABC15 News reached out to Edwards’ legal team. As of Monday night, we have not heard back.

Smith said he’s been working a new job for the last three months.

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