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Weather groundhog Phil 'indicted,' accused of lying as winter continues

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ohio prosecutor Michael Gmoser is going after Phil for deception
  • Phil predicted a short winter and a quick arrival of spring
  • Many Americans will think he was wrong after all the cold they've seen lately
  • It's a joke, of course, and Phil's handlers are playing along

(CNN) -- Punxsutawney Phil lied.

That's what a prosecutor in Ohio says. He has filed a criminal "indictment" against the famed groundhog, who, year for year on February 2, emerges from his burrow at Gobbler's Knob to predict whether spring will come early or winter will linger.

If he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of chill. If not, short sleeves are days away.

This year, Phil got it wrong, and it's not the first time.

On the first day of spring this past Wednesday, the Northeast got pelted with more than a foot of snow. It's still cold two days later, and more chilly weather is in the forecast.

Snow on the first day of spring

Gmoser talks to CNN

Michael T. Gmoser is sick of it, and he wants someone to pay.

"I woke up this morning and the wind was blowing, the snow was flying, the temperatures were falling, and I said 'Punxsutawney, you let us down,' " the prosecutor told CNN affiliate WXIX.

The homepage of the Butler County, Ohio, prosecutor's office, which Gmoser heads, prominently features alerts against scammers.

Shadows aren't just for groundhogs

Gmoser is convinced that Phil is one and that he intentionally misled the nation. Now, trouble with the law is a brewing for the famous rodent from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Not really.

It's all in good fun, of course, and Phil's handlers are getting in on the joke.

But they are not "ratting" him out.

"If you remember two weeks ago on a Sunday, it was probably 60, 65 degrees," handler John Griffiths told WXIX in Phil's defense. "So, I mean, that basically counts as an early spring."

After snow storms and blizzards for weeks from Arizona to the Dakotas and into the Midwest and New England, not many Americans may buy it.

But Phil may not be at fault.

Some may have thought in the past that his predictions were a vast conspiracy. After all, he is sponsored by two clubs, a handful of corporations and two banks.

On Phil's website, Groundhog.org, his handlers dispute the theory.

"No, Punxsutawney Phil's forecasts are not made in advance by the Inner Circle," they write.

The off prediction could have been a mistranslation.

Phil "speaks to the Groundhog Club President in Groundhogese," according to the website. "His proclamation is then translated for the world." What if the president can't hear correctly over the crowd? Is it then still really Phil's fault?

Gmoser is sticking by his guns. "Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause people to believe that Spring would come early," the indictment reads.

He recommends the death penalty.

"He's already serving a life sentence behind bars, as you know," Gmoser told WXIX.

Phil has been making his predictions since 1887 and will probably continue.

Extraditing him from Pennsylvania to Ohio to stand trial is unlikely, since transporting wild animals across state lines can be illegal.

People may be angry with Phil about his prediction as winter's chill dawdles.

But lighten up. He's just a groundhog.

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