US prosecutor seeks death penalty for famous weather-forecasting groundhog

US prosecutor seeks death penalty for famous weather-forecasting groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil, the world-famous groundhog who wrongly predicted an early Spring this year, has been threatened with the death penalty by a US lawyer.

Sky News reports that Butler County attorney Mike Gmoser, who insists that the charges are just a joke, issued an official-looking indictment which read:

"The offence of MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING, is an Unclassed Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio."

He added that Phil acted "purposely, and with prior calculation and design, (to) cause the people to believe that Spring would come early.

"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."

According to legend, if the Phil does not see his shadow when he emerges from his winter hole on 'Groundhog Day', then an early Spring is on the way. And that was the case this year, when Phil came out of his Gobbler's Knob hole in Pennsylvania on February 2.

If he does see his shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of winter.

This year Phil's prediction missed the mark as this year much of America is still dealing with snowstorms and freezing temperatures - and there is no improvement on the horizon.

But Phil's handlers were quick to leap to his defence - John Griffiths insisted that the groundhog was innocent and said that, since February 2, there have been some Spring-like temperature spikes.

Bill Deeley, president of the club that organises Groundhog Day, told BBC News that Phil has a lawyer and added that the death penalty would be a "very harsh" punishment.

He added: "We'll have to plead our case one way or the other, but I think we can beat the rap."

Phil became famous thanks to the 1993 film Groundhog Day. Every year, thousands of people visit the Pennsylvanian town of Punxsutawney, to witness Phil's forecast.

Click on the image below for ten great ideas for Easter escapes...

Ten great ideas for Easter escapes
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US prosecutor seeks death penalty for famous weather-forecasting groundhog

The famous White House Egg Roll may only be open to American travellers but there are plenty of alternative Easter egg hunts in Washington DC. Madame Tussauds has more than 1,000 eggs hidden in the Presidents Gallery and Tudor Palace's Eggstravaganza promises a thrilling Egg Roll Contest and spring basket building. From 20 March to 14 April, DC also celebrates bright colours and lighter evenings at the National Cherry Blossom Festival, with musical and stage performances and the blossoming of more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees given to the city by Japan in 1912.

There's plenty to see and do in Spain during the Easter holidays - and it's a great time to soak up the sunshine. In Valencia, you'll find all sorts of festivities, such the Procession of the Palm Leaves, the Procession of the Holy Burial and the Procession of the Resurrection during Holy Week. Extremadura in south west Spain sees costume parades, ornate floats and dancing in the streets on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The whole island of Tenerife celebrates Holy Week with various processions and you can enjoy whale watching and lazy days on the beach.

Fancy a traditional Easter of chocolate egg hunts? Cadbury and the National Trust have teamed up for Easter weekend to offer families fun Easter Egg Trails at 250 special National Trust properties throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There'll be activities including Design Your Own Egg Head, giant snakes and ladders, sack races and face painting, plus each trail will be unique to its location. New for this year, is the traditional egg and spoon race that you can take part in at select locations. Visit

For somewhere completely off the tourist radar and in a beautiful corner of Asia little-known to British travellers, Bhutan offers an enchanting, peaceful and happy holiday during Easter. The colourful Talo Tshechu, from 31 March to 2 April, is a three-day festival in Punakha known for its masks and Atsara dances. The lively Zhemgang Tshechu in Zhemgang also takes place at this time, giving you another reason to visit Bhutan in spring. With warm, clear weather and a variety of festivals, it's the perfect time to experience the local culture and celebrations.

Who needs chocolate eggs when Easter in Kyoto marks peak cherry blossom viewing time? Visit this beautiful part of Japan to see the weeping cherry blossoms in bloom at Jingu Shrine, one of Kyoto's most famous and romantic spots for the annual ritual. Other wonderful events include Kyoto Antique Fair at Pulse Plaza from 29 to 31 March with more than 350 antique dealers, the Saga Dai Nenbutsu Kyogen silent play at Seiryo-ji Temple on 31 March and 6 to 7 April, and the special spring opening of the Kyoto Imperial Palace from 3 to 7 April.

Easter or Pasqua in Italy is one of the biggest holidays of the year. While you won't find the Easter bunny here, there are colourful displays of chocolate eggs in shop windows and plenty of events. Foodies can taste Easter Colomba (dove) cake and try seasonal dishes, like young lamb and artichokes. Rome is the centre of Italy's Easter celebrations with the Pope's Via Crucis procession and a whole host of other activities involving the Pope and the Vatican. In Sicily, the Procession of the Mysteries lasts almost 24 hours with a magnificent parade through Trapani. Sorrento's torch-lit procession is led by men dressed in hooded robes and in Florence the Explosion of the Cart sees an elaborate wagon pulled through the streets by white oxen before a spectacular fireworks display in Piazza del Duomo.

It's around this time of year that France begins to wake up and if you head south you'll get lovely warm sunshine without the crowds. Head for Hyeres for for enjoy biking and walking, or Cannes for its Shopping Festival and swimming in the warm Mediterranean Sea. And if it's a traditional Easter with a twist you're after, Gouffre de Padirac in the Midi-Pyrenees region sees hundreds of chocolate eggs hidden in a path 103 metres underground, with lakes and an unusual atmosphere to explore.

The Caribbean can be a good choice for Easter: it is the end of the peak season and the weather is still lovely. Head for St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the largest island, Bequia, hosts the lively Bequia Easter Regatta from 28 March to 1 April, with four days of boat racing, live music, entertainment and authentic Vincentian cuisine. It's the biggest regatta in the Southern Caribbean and sees the harbour packed with yachts from around the world and a series of races.

Thanks to Portugal's strong religious heritage and delightful spring weather, Easter means plenty of cultural festivals across the country. During Holy Week, Braga hosts lively processions, such as the burrinha (donkey) parade. In the Algarve, the streets of Sao Bras de Alportel are filled with flowers and flaming torches on Easter Sunday and you can sample the desserts and sweets of the season. The region's Folar Fairs offer music and entertainment, plus the chance to try folar cakes - Easter cakes with hard boiled eggs (complete with shells) on top!

We all know the Easter bunny - but ever heard of the Easter witch? For an unusual Easter holiday head to Stockholm and enjoy traditional Swedish celebrations. On Maundy Thursday, children dress up as colourful witches to deliver Easter letters and receive sweets. It is said that witches flew off to dance with the devil on the Blåkulla (Blue Mountain) at this time of year. At Skansen, Sweden's oldest open-air museum, kids can make their own witch brooms and pretend they're taking off for Blåkulla.


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