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Ohio prosecutor seeks death penalty in case against Punxsutawney Phil

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:34 a.m.
Keith Srakocic | AP
Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil after the club said Phil did not see his shadow and there will be an early spring, on Groundhog Day, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Punxsutawney.

Punxsutawney Phil may have given his last forecast.

A prosecutor in Ohio is seeking the death penalty for the world-famous groundhog who emerged from his Gobbler's Knob home on Feb. 2 and did not see his shadow. His handlers proclaimed: “And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early spring for you and me.”

Michael T. Gmoser, prosecuting attorney in Butler County, about 20 miles north of Cincinnati, said on Thursday that Phil's misrepresentation of an early spring warrants the death penalty for the irrepressible rodent.

“Let's face it, Punxsutawney Phil has let us down,” Gmoser said, tongue firmly in cheek, after filing the necessary court documents.

“I awoke this morning to a snowstorm, low temperatures and howling wind.”

The National Weather Service says no real improvement is on the horizon for the Pittsburgh area with isolated snow showers expected Friday morning. Snow is likely on Sunday and there's a good chance of snow showers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, forecasters said.

Spring began Wednesday.

“We in Butler County, like everyone in the nation, depend on Phil to give us a breath of spring in time. You know, Phil lives his life behind bars as it is. This is the only penalty available. Maybe it's time for a Phyllis instead.”

Gmoser will have a fight on his hands if he tries to arrest the Weather Prophet without Peer, said Jeffrey Lundy, vice president of the Punxsutawney Ground Hog Club.

“He's going to have to go through 15 licensed hunters to get to Phil,” said Lundy, referring to members of the club's inner circle.

“We'll find out how good of a prosecutor (Gmoser) is. If he doesn't know how to speak groundhog-ese, he'll never understand a word Phil says.”

Gmoser acknowledges a reprieve is possible.

“There may be some mitigating circumstances I may not know about. Phil may not know his rear from a hole in the ground. That might make a difference,” said Gmoser, who decided to file the court papers to break the tension at the end of a hard day in the office.

“There's a lot of things to get serious about,” Lundy agreed. “Groundhog Day is not one of them.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at mhasch@tribweb.com.

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