It was an Onion story: "Punxsutawney Phil Beheaded for Inaccurate Prediction On Annual Groundhog Slaughtering Day."
Then, three days later, it became a "real" news story: "Ohio Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty For Punxsutawney Phil After Bad Forecast."
That's right, the prosecuting attorney of Butler County, Ohio, Michael Gmoser, filed an indictment against Punxsutawney Phil for the faulty forecast of an early spring.
And the desired penalty? Death.
Gmoser's indictment against Punxsutawney Phil read as follows:
On or about February 02,2013, at Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early. 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, a Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State Of Ohio.
SPECIFICATION: The people further find and specify that due to the aggravating circumstances and misrepresentation to the people that the death penalty be implemented to the defendant, Punxsutawney Phil
The indictment was filed on March 21. On March 22, a Pennsylvania law group warned Gmoser to "cease and desist" prosecution of Punxsutawney Phil.
The story got a little bigger than Gmoser would have thought once the cease and desist order was filed against him. He hinted that the indictment was a joke in quotes from a Washington Post article: “This is a story that has legs, I hope everyone understands it’s tongue-in-cheek…”
The "cruel and unusual punishment," as cited in the "cease and desist" may have been the reason that Gmoser found himself with a letter issued by the Nurick Law Group.
The punishment may have been harsh, yet the winter has been even harsher.
Maybe next year, Punxsutawney Phil should ask The Onion to help out with the forecast. They predicted people would be calling for Phil's head, why can't the predict when spring will arrive?