Groundhog Phil might have made a fatal mistake when he predicted that spring will come early this year. Disturbed by the rodent’s false forecast, an Ohio prosecutor has filed court documents seeking the death penalty for Punxsutawney Phil.
The famous groundhog emerged from his home in Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., on a cloudy Feb. 2 and did not see his shadow. According to tradition that has been celebrated in the US since the 18thcentury, this indicates that spring is on its way. If on the other hand the groundhog were to see his shadow, he would become frightened and scurry back into his home – an indication that it will be a long winter.
Despite Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast of an early spring, parts of the US are still plagued with frigid temperatures and snow. Michael T. Gmoser, prosecuting attorney of Butler County, Ohio, said that the rodent’s prediction was ‘purposefully’ misleading, since snow is forecast in Ohio this weekend.
“Punxsutawney Phil did purposefully, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early,” Gmoser writes in the indictment. “Contrary to the Groundhog day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future, which constitutes the offense of misrepresentation of early spring, an Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio.”
Furthermore, Gmoser urged that because of this misrepresentation, Punxsutawney Phil should receive the death penalty.
By accusing Phil by making his prediction ‘purposefully’ and ‘with prior calculation’, the prosecutor is indicating that the rodent has the capacity to reason and should therefore be responsible for his actions.
“When he betrays us like this, something has to be done,” Gmoser told the Washington Post in a phone interview.
The prosecutor told the paper that he expects the groundhog to appeal the indictment, but that the rodent is unlikely to make a good argument.
“His defense will be he didn’t know his rear end from a hole in the ground,”Gmoser said.
Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney club and organizer of Groundhog Day, told the Associated Press that he has hired a lawyer for Phil to escape any extradition attempts made by the Ohio-based prosecution team. He said that the death penalty was too harsh of a punishment for the allegations and said the publicity surrounding the case has led him to take additional security precautions to guard the rodent.
“Right next to where Phil stays is the police station,” he said. “They’ve been notified and they said they will keep watching their monitors.”
But after responding seriously to the media about his indictment, Gmoser admitted that he filed the paperwork as a joke.
“It was kind of one of those brainstorm moments,” he told ABC News. “I woke up in a snow storm. The wind was blowing and howling. The temperature was in its teens.”
Looking out of his window, the prosecutor felt let down by the rodent’s forecast. He thought that maybe the rodent’s sister, a groundhog named Phyllis, would be better prepared for the job. But when he realized how seriously people were taking his indictment, he spoke to the media about the humor of the situation.
“I actually got calls asking whether or not I was really going to kill Phll,” he told ABC.
But Deely didn’t seem to be amused by the situation and wonders why Gmoser took the indictment so far.
“Doesn’t he have better things to do than this?” he asked, while also taking the blame for Phil’s incorrect prediction by claiming he misinterpreted the groundhog’s reaction.