US & Canada

Punxsutawney Phil 'indicted' in Ohio over spring prediction

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Media captionPunxsutawney Phil may now wish he was back in hibernation

Authorities in the US state of Ohio have issued an "indictment" against Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog famed for predicting spring's arrival, after he got it wrong this year.

The groundhog forecast an early spring when he did not see his shadow as he emerged from hibernation on 2 February.

But tongue-in-cheek prosecutors in Ohio's Butler County accuse the rodent of deliberately misleading the public.

They say such a felony should be punished by death.

"Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early," wrote Mike Gmoser, Butler County prosecutor, in an official-looking paper.

'Very harsh'

He added the wrong prediction amounted to a felony "against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio".

But Bill Deeley, president of the club that organises Groundhog Day, said Phil has a lawyer and would fight attempted extradition by the Ohio authorities.

He added the death penalty would be a "very harsh" punishment for the much-loved rodent.

"We'll have to plead our case one way or the other, but I think we can beat the rap," Mr Deeley said.

There has been much chatter on social media about Phil's incorrect prediction that spring would come early.

Temperatures in the region remain low, with a storm due on Sunday that could bring several inches of snow with it.

Each year thousands of people visit the tiny western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, depicted in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, to witness Phil's prognostication.

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