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Associated Press
Punxsutawney Phil, who forecast an early spring, is drawing heat from chilled Ohioans.

Fur flies after Phil fouls up forecast

– A shadow of a different kind is hanging over Punxsutawney Phil.

Authorities in still-frigid Ohio have issued an “indictment” against the famed groundhog, who predicted an early spring when he didn’t see his shadow after emerging from his lair in western Pennsylvania on Feb. 2.

Spring arrived Wednesday, and temperatures are still hovering in the 30s in the Buckeye state and much of the Northeast. While it’s not the coldest spring on record, it’s a good 5 degrees below normal, said Don Hughes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

So the heat is on against Phil, and the furry rodent has been charged with misrepresentation of spring, a felony “against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio,” wrote prosecutor Mike Gmoser in an official-looking indictment.

“Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early,” Gmoser declared.

So what’s the penalty? Death, Gmoser said, tongue firmly in cheek.

That’s “very harsh,” given the nature of the allegations, said Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney club that organizes Groundhog Day.

The chubby-cheeked animal also has his defenders. “Phree Phil!” declared one supporter on his Facebook page. “We’re with you, Phil,” wrote another.

As for spring, there’s no relief in sight. A storm Sunday could bring between 4 and 8 inches of snow.

While Gmoser’s indictment made no mention of any co-conspirators in the false early spring prediction, the state’s own groundhog forecaster, Buckeye Chuck, also failed to see his shadow when he emerged from his burrow.

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