CINCINNATI -- Punxsutawney Phil is innocent.
That's what one of his handlers, John Griffiths, declares in response to an "indictment" that the Butler County, Ohio, prosecutor issued Thursday against Pennsylvania's famous weather-predicting groundhog.
Apparently frosted over Ohio's cold start to the spring season, prosecutor Mike Gmoser accuses Phil of "misrepresentation of spring."
On Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, Phil did not see his shadow. By legend, that portends an early spring.
But in an official-looking document, Gmoser alleges that Phil acted "with prior calculation and design" to cause people to believe that spring would arrive early.
"Contrary to the Groundhog Day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future," Gmoser wrote.
Not so fast, Mr. Prosecutor, Griffiths says.
Griffiths is convinced -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- that the groundhog will be acquitted when all the evidence is considered.
"There are several defenses," he said, including the fact that, since Feb. 2, there have been springlike temperature spikes.
"And maybe there's just a dark cloud over Ohio," Griffiths quipped.
Actually, there's an Arctic air mass hanging over Greater Cincinnati, which could bring 1-3 inches of snow on Sunday.
Citing "aggravating circumstances," Gmoser calls for "the death penalty" as Phil's punishment.
When told about that, Griffiths, who has cared for the animal for about nine years, asked -- with a hint of apprehension in his voice -- "This is tongue-in-cheek -- right?"