According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the prosecuting attorney of Butler County, tired of bad weather, wants to indict Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby (yup, the magic groundhog), for "purposely, and with prior calculation and design" misleading people about the date that spring would start. And he wants Phil done away with. Permanently. Here's a link to a copy of the indictment.
Now, first of all, Mr. Gmoser, the DA in this story here, has clout in Ohio, I admit, but I hasten to point out that Phil lives in Pennsylvania. Extradition is a problem. Will a Pa. judge okay shipping a groundhog across the border for maliciousness (and Mr. Gmoser will have to make a case for faulty forecasting and pernicious prediction by the grumbly groundhog)? Do human laws apply to marmots?
Second, is Mr. Gmoser suggesting that a whistle pig is not protected by the First Amendment? That Phil's expressive speech of recognizing his shadow, and thus "predicting spring" is not protected by the First Amendment? Check out cases such as Rushman v. City of Milwaukee (959 F. Supp. 1040, 1997) (false statements fraudulent only if the speaker has knowledge that the statement cannot come true).
I cry fowl! Couldn't Mr. Sowerby argue that whatever humans interpret from his conduct is our problem? After all, human beings force him through this event on the 2 of February to see if he sees his shadow or not. It isn't really his idea. Who decided to engage the furry Mr. Sowerby in this venture? Did he ever ask anybody to believe his predictions, such as they are? Aren't those beliefs and assumptions about whether a groundhog can predict the coming of spring by seeing his shadow or not, amusing as they are, really quite inane? Well, then, why blame the groundhog?
There are probably some criminal defenses available, but it's Friday and I'm tired.
Fourth, how much gmoser could a woodchuck chuck?
Yes, the indictment is a joke. At least, I think it is. But I hope no one goes sciurid hunting, hoping for a bounty. That would make a tragedy out of what is Mr. Gmoser's attempt at humor.