A white restaurant manager who enslaved a disabled black man and forced him to work more than 100 hours a week for no pay has been jailed for 10 years.
Bobby Paul Edwards admitted to regularly beating John Christopher Smith with pots, pans, a belt and his fists.
Mr Smith has an intellectual disability and an IQ of less than 70, according to a filing at the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, which revealed Edwards once dipped metal tongs into boiling grease and burned his neck.
Edwards also regularly used racial slurs and abusive language against the 39-year-old, while abusing him at the J&J Cafeteria in South Carolina.
“This abusive enslavement of a vulnerable person is shocking,” said Jody Norris, an FBI Special Agent after the sentencing.
Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, added: “It is almost inconceivable that instances of forced labour endure in this country to this day – a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation.”
Mr Smith began working at the J&J Cafeteria as a dishwasher in 1996, the filing said. He was aged 12 at the time he was employed by Edwards’ family.
He was initially paid for his work, but he said Edwards began abusing him after became manager of the business which is owned by his brother.
“I could get along with his wife, his momma, his daddy, his cousin, his brother ... I could get along with all of them ... but I couldn’t get along with him,” he told the ABC 15 News channel.
He also forced him to live in a small room behind the restaurant.
Eventually Geneane Caines, a customer and local resident, reported his behaviour to the authorities.
“Chris came out of the kitchen and put some food down on the bar. He leaned one way over and, when he did, I could see a scar on his neck,” she said.
By the time officials removed Smith from the restaurant in October 2014 he had been abused for 17 years.