Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Punxsutawney Phil

Meritte Dahl

An Ohio prosecutor abandoned his plan to seek the death penalty for Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog who did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day in February, mistakenly reporting an early spring.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser dropped the charges Tuesday after one of the groundhog's handlers took the blame for mistakenly announcing an early spring, the Associated Press reported.

Gmoser filed the indictment last week after weather reports indicated snow to fall after the official start of spring, the Associated Press reported.

ABC News reported that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Feb. 2. According to folklore, if a gopher sees its shadow after emerging from its burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter, but if it sees no shadow, there will be an early spring.

Handler Bill Neeley said the incident was his fault, according to NBC News. "Misinterpretation by me. I just read him wrong."

Gmoser said his decision to drop charges was persuaded by Ohio schoolchildren at Cleveland Community School, NBC News reported.

NBC News reported one of Elana Carver's fourth grade students wrote: "Phil is an innocent little groundhog because on the other hand the groundhog can't predict the weather. It can't talk."

Another student wrote: "Why would you press charges? It's only one mistake."

Gmoser said, "I'm kind of done with animal cases," the Associated Press reported. "Maybe another prosecutor can go after the Easter Bunny."