The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 19, 2013

Trial over death centers on ‘Elaine push’

BEDFORD — The “Elaine push,” popularized in the 1990s television sitcom “Seinfeld,” kept the jury out of the courtroom and occupied the attention of a judge and two lawyers much of Wednesday morning on the opening day of the trial for a man who police said pushed his best friend, leading to that man’s death.

Randy Foor, 52, of Chalybeate Road, Bedford, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter resulting from an Aug. 11 fight with Dennis Sprigg, 49, of Manns Choice.

The “Elaine push” was employed in a number of “Seinfeld” episodes by character Elaine Benes.

State police said Foor had used the term in explaining his actions to Sprigg’s girlfriend, Sue Hileman.

After lengthy deliberations, Judge Travis Livengood ruled that the term could be used in the trial, but prohibited Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins from showing the jury a video of the push from one of the TV episodes.

Testimony is expected to conclude this morning.

Wednesday’s testimony included nine witnesses presented by the prosecution including Hileman, Foor’s fiance Robin Robertson, emergency medical responders and some people who attended the Aug. 11 gathering at Foor’s Bedford Township home.

The witnesses agreed that Foor and Sprigg were lifelong friends who argued at times.

Both were drinking at the gathering when the atmosphere turned tense, according to party attendee Jacob Kraybill, the stepson of Foor’s sister.

The two were intoxicated and were arguing about how many auto accidents Sprigg had over the years when the altercation turned physical.

Foor pushed Sprigg backward with what Kraybill described as both hands to the Sprigg’s shoulders. Sprigg fell and struck his head on pavement.  

“Randy was trying to help him (Sprigg) to his car, they fell a couple of times, they got up and started fighting,” Kraybill testified. “And Randy pushed him (Sprigg) one last time.”

Much of the afternoon was taken up with Kraybill’s testimony.  

Bedford Area Ambulance personnel testified that when they arrived at the scene, Sprigg was conscious and did not want to go to the hospital. He had blood coming from his ear and eventually passed out. He was taken by medical helicopter to Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, where he remained for more than a month.

Hileman testified that there were a few times when Sprigg appeared to be responsive, but he never talked. Sprigg was transferred Sept. 19 to Pennknoll Village in Snake Spring Township for long-term nursing care.

He died Sept. 28 following cardiac arrest, according to testimony.

One of the points argued before the judge prior to the start of testimony was an earlier incident involving Foor and Sprigg. Livengood allowed the testimony of Randy Batzel of Bedford, a man who described himself as like a brother to the two men.

Batzel said the three were at his home playing poker about four months prior to the push when Foor and Sprigg got into a fight. Batzel had told police that Foor punched Sprigg in the mouth. But in testifying Wednesday, he said Foor “punched” the $3 in the poker pot into Sprigg’s mouth.  

Defense attorney Thomas Dickey, in his opening argument, told the jury that Foor’s push of Sprigg in August was self-defense because Sprigg had become aggressive toward Foor.

That characterization was supported by Kraybill, who said he saw Sprigg getting aggressive. Kraybill said he and others told Sprigg to knock it off.

“Dennis (Sprigg) went toward Randy, when he got close to Randy, Randy pushed him,” the 19-year-old testified.

Sprigg was described as 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds. Foor is shorter and weighs significantly less.

At least one witness described Sprigg as muscular with significant upper body mass.

Along with involuntary manslaughter, Foor is charged with aggravated assault.

 

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cawley Lt. Gov. Cawley pushes jobs plan during Johnstown visit

    Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley got to see firsthand many of the training tools used by Hiram G. Andrews Center students on Thursday and took some time to promote a program called Jobs for All, part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s JOBS1st PA agenda.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • home VIDEO | Volunteers ‘blitz build’ replacement home for Upper Yoder man

    One week ago, Joey Varmecky had almost nothing.
    In October, a flue fire claimed his Swank Street home. That night, Varmecky, a deaf and partially blind man who doesn’t speak, showed up on the doorstep of his friend’s home. His feet were covered only by a pair of stockings.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Toomey & Shuster Bill would help identify unclaimed remains of veterans

    The cremated remains of an estimated 47,000 veterans are stored throughout the United States, sometimes in nothing more than nondescript metal canisters on shelves.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • million Lucky Seward man finds ticket to riches

    People often play the lottery and dream about the things they would do if they won the big one.
    That dream came true for Karl Kadi of Seward, who won $1 million on a $20 Max-A-Million scratch-off lottery ticket.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Farrish, James State police make another drug bust on turnpike

    A Pittsburgh man was jailed Thursday after state police said they found about $120,000 in suspected heroin during a traffic stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sisco, Ryan James & John Patrick Two brothers charged in beating at bar

    Two Johnstown brothers were jailed Wednesday after police said they beat a man so badly he suffered a concussion and may end up blind in one eye.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • path of flood Path of Flood entries due

    Anyone interested in participating in Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s  Path of the Flood Historic Half Marathon and 5K race will need to get in gear before the April 30 registration deadline.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drilling fees should fund education, Democrats say

    Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.

    April 17, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/18/2014

    April 17, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads