On January 15, 1930, Lead Belly was arrested in Mooringsport after defending himself with a knife in a fight with three white men who were being aggressive and forcing Belly off of the sidewalk.
One of the men, Dick Ellet, was taken to the hospital with lacerations. The local sheriff, meanwhile, was defending the jail against an angry white lynch mob.
The following February 28, Lead Belly was convicted of assault with intent to kill in the wounding of Dick Ellet. He entered Angola State Prison near Baton Rouge for a term of five to ten years.
When he was released, he entered America, which was now deep in the The Great Depression.