It seems Punxsutawney Phil will continue his cushy life of lying to us all, year after year — the groundhog's handler told Metro the indictment brought against the furry weather-caster has been dismissed after he took the fall for misinterpreting Phil's prediction. Likely story.
Last week, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser ignited a nationwide controversy with his decision to indict Phil for “misrepresenting an early spring" this past Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, after it became clear that winter still had its icy grip on much of the country. But the real twist came when Gmoser wanted to throw the book at Phil by seeking the death penalty after people in Butler County came forward with groundhog recipes, saying they "wanted a piece" of Phil.
Phil's handler and president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, Bill Deeley, could not sit back and watch Phil take the fall any longer. He went straight to Gmoser and confessed that he was responsible for tricking the nation into believing it would see an early spring, for it was Bill Deeley who misinterpreted Phil's Groundhogese (groundhog language, for those who aren't familiar with the Punxsutawney legend). [embedgallery id=124889]
"If you are holding the Arcadian cane, you can interpret what Phil is saying to you," Deeley explained to Metro. "Without that cane in your hand, you can't speak to Phil. I thought he said early spring, but I misinterpreted him, and it’s all my fault."
Naturally, Deeley acted fast after the death penalty was put on the table, contesting that it was simply too harsh a penalty, and that's where Gmoser's case really unraveled.
"We were very upset with the death penalty," Deeley said. "A weekend in jail served by me for Phil, maybe, but when he said the death penalty is when I think everyone turned on him, and thought he overstepped his bounds here."
Given the confession, Gmoser, who previously said it would need to hit 80 degrees by April 15 for him to drop the indictment, had a change of heart and let bygones be bygones.
"Bill Deeley stepped up to the burrow and offered a defense with teeth in it," Gmoser told Metro. "He took the rap for that little rascal and told me he was at fault. I always appreciate acceptance of accountability when dealing with criminal cases."
Deeley said Phil was hugely relieved when they received word that the indictment had been dropped — and inevitable capital punishment was no longer looming over his furry head.
"I think he was relieved that it was over, especially the death threat – nobody likes that. You wouldn't like it either," Deeley said. "He keeps looking at me and saying, 'Big dummy – it’s all your fault.'"
Gmoser said now that this is all behind them, he'll surely listen more closely to Phil next Groundhog Day, but offered some ominous words regarding his future predictions.
"I will always be listening to Phil," he said. "This is a wakeup call for Phil, frankly. The eyes of the world will be on Phil."
But perhaps it is Phil who got the last laugh as this scandal comes to an end: "Can you imagine the publicity we got out of this?" Deeley asked.
Follow Cassandra Garrison on Twitter at @CassieAtMetro