Unwarranted Attention??

By William Bender
Updated: March 20, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — In 2001, Eagles coach Andy Reid suspended then-rookie running back Correll Buckhalter for one game after police caught him and two other players cruising down South Street in a Lexus SUV with marijuana smoke wafting out of the windows.

Buckhalter, who signed a four-year contract with the Denver Broncos last month, was not charged in that incident.

But he was buying high-potency pot from a Delaware County dealer until at least 2006, according to court testimony.

Styles Beckles, 36, who was busted last year, told cops that he regularly sold marijuana called “Kush” to the injury-plagued running back, according to state police Cpl. Todd Harris, who testified yesterday at Styles’ trial in Media.

Beckles also named as a customer former Philadelphia Soul receiver/defensive back Keita Crespina — now the defensive coordinator at George Washington High School — along with three other unidentified members of the Soul, Harris said.

Neither Crespina nor Buckhalter has been charged.

Buckhalter, 30, who played eight seasons with the Eagles before signing a $10 million contract with the Broncos, denied Beckles’ allegations.

“I’ve spoken to Correll and Correll says there’s no validity to it,” said J.R. Rickert, Buckhalter’s agent.

Asked if Buckhalter knew Beckles, or why he would be singled out, Rickert responded, “I didn’t even want to ask that question.”

“Correll is aware of the [NFL’s] personal-conduct policy and he says he did not put himself in violation of it,” Rickert said.

A spokesman for the Broncos said the team is aware of the allegation, but had no comment.

Crespina, a former Temple University player, took offense to the courtroom accusation.

“My character is being attacked here,” he said. “Ask anybody in the community about Keita Crespina . . . for now I’m going to let that stand.”

After his arrest last April, Beckles told police that he bought the high-quality weed by the vial in Queens, N.Y., and sold it in the Philadelphia region, Harris said, reading from a statement that Beckles signed.

Buckhalter bought three to six vials every 2 to 3 weeks when he was in town, sometimes more “when there was a special function,” according to the statement. Beckles said the last time he sold marijuana to Buckhalter was a couple of weeks before police raided his Clifton Heights apartment in February 2006.

Beckles said in the statement that he sold pot to Crespina “and three other members of the Philadelphia Soul” whose names he couldn’t recall – one from Tennessee, one from Chicago.

“I find Keita to be an upstanding man and coach,” said George Washington coach Ron Cohen. “He’s great with the kids. He also gives back to the community. Just the fact that he helps us as a volunteer should tell you something. He puts in all those hours and doesn’t take a dime.”

State police had a wiretap on Beckles’ phone between December 2005 and February 2006, when they searched his apartment on Baltimore Pike and found 487 vials of marijuana buds, “owe sheets,” digital scales, drug paraphernalia and cash.

Buckhalter and Crespina may have both been under state police surveillance if they met with Beckles during the investigation, which was part of a larger probe into a violent Chester-based drug gang that resulted in federal indictments.

Beckles’ attorney, Kevin Mark Wray, said his client is innocent and, through his cross-examination, implied that police mistreated Beckles.

At one point, Wray asked Harris if he remembered a state trooper telling Beckles that they would drop the charges if Beckles “could get Bon Jovi’s autograph” and calling the defendant a “little goofball.”

Harris said he did not recall anyone saying that.

Delaware County Judge Barry Dozor issued a gag order Wednesday afternoon after the Buckhalter-related testimony drew widespread news coverage. The order prohibits anybody tied to the case from making statements outside of court to prevent tainting the jury.

NOTE: Daily News sports writers Les Bowen and Ted Silary contributed to this story.