CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A near lethal dose of spring fever is apparently sweeping through our neighbor to the north.
Upset that spring-like weather failed to take hold after Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow last month, an Ohio prosecutor has charged the famed, four-legged forecaster with using "prior calculation and design" to make a criminal "misrepresentation of early spring."
And no punishment is apparently too severe for bringing such an egregious hint of false fair-weather hope to the cold-blooded residents of the Buckeye State.
In keeping with Ohio's status as a capital punishment state, Butler County Prosecutor Mike "Buy a Vowel" Gmoser has filed papers seeking the death penalty for the "aggravating circumstances" caused by Phil's faulty forecast.
According to the tongue-in-cheek wording of the common pleas court indictment Gmoser filed last week, Phil's bad call constitutes "an unclassified felony against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio."
In the unlikely event that Punxsutawney Phil is extradited to Ohio, brought to trial, and found guilty of his alleged offense, it is unclear how his execution would be carried out. While humans convicted of capital offenses are subject to lethal injection, perhaps a more groundhog-appropriate method, like a forced crossing of the Ohio Turnpike on Memorial Day, could be considered.
While animal prosecutions are apparently only a sidelight for Gmoser, who also spent part of last week speaking to the Ohio General Assembly in behalf of stiffer elder abuse laws, there are plenty more fur-bearing perps out there to prosecute, if he so chooses. One that comes immediately to mind is Smokey Bear, who clearly sat on his fire-preventing duff in 2012 -- the second-worst year on record for U.S. wildfires.
Meanwhile, before Gmoser pushes much harder to make the nation's best-known groundhog pay the ultimate price for a lapse in judgment, he might want to consider one pertinent fact:
Punxsutawney Phil lives in a burrow inside a cage guarded by humans, emerging for only one morning of heavily supervised work release annually.
He's already serving life without parole.
While I hate to see anyone cancel his or her newspaper delivery, it was refreshing to learn that Pope Francis personally made the call to put home delivery of his hometown sheet in Buenos Aires on hold, due to his recent move to Vatican City. According to news accounts, the new pontiff took time to thank the carrier for delivering the paper over the years, and sent best wishes to members of his family.
The last time I answered the phone when a customer was calling in to call it quits, it was from a disgruntled reader demanding that I cancel his "prescription."