Former Bay High basketball player Aaliyah Williamson, 23, walked into federal court in shackles and a prison jumpsuit, with her mother, father, uncle, brother and other family members looking on.
They believe Williamson is innocent of charges that she trafficked drugs with ex-boyfriend Jonathan Jarvis, also charged in the case.
Williamson originally pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and firearms felonies filed against her. She was scheduled to change that plea Thursday when she appeared before U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden.
Instead, she told the judge she would fight the charges. Williamson is scheduled for trial May 14 with Jarvis. If convicted, she faces a minimum five years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.
"You're going to be all right, baby," one family member called as she turned toward them before federal marshals escorted her from the courtroom. "Looking good, girl," another relative called out.
Outside the courtroom, Williamson's mother, Michael Robinson of Bay St. Louis, said her daughter was a victim of abuse at the hands of Jarvis.
"She was beaten," Robinson said. "She didn't know what to do."
Robert Harenski, the attorney for Jarvis, said he is unaware of any abuse. "It was her who owned the gun," he said.
Robinson and Williamson's uncle, Bruce Robinson, talked about what a great basketball player she was at Bay St. Louis High School. She was the lead scorer for her team in several games in 2008, Sun Herald reports show.
"I've been doing this for 40 years," said Bay High basketball coach Debbie Triplett, "and I've never seen as much of a waste of talent and potential as that kid had."
Triplett said she tried to work with Williamson but she kept getting into trouble and eventually had to be cut from the team. Bay High's basketball program, the coach said, emphasizes pride and professionalism.
Williamson, her family said, was working as a fence installer before her arrest.
Jarvis and Williamson were on Interstate 10 when a trooper pulled them over in October 2017. Jarvis was driving. The criminal complaint in the case notes Williamson was making "furtive movements" as the trooper approached.
She had stuffed 247 grams of methamphetamine into her pants, he said. The complaint also says the car smelled of marijuana.
The trooper recovered 29 doses of Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication, 14 doses of the painkiller oxycodone, about three ounces of marijuana, digital scales and baggies.
Jarvis had been convicted on a drug possession charge in 2013 and a drug delivery charge in 2014, both in Hancock County, state records show. He told the trooper he was out on probation.
Williamson admitted during the interview an addiction to pain pills and meth.