By Brandi Makuski
Gov. Tony Evers announced on Friday that he has appointed Cass Cousins to serve as Portage County District Attorney.
The appointment fills a vacancy created by former District Attorney Louis Molepske’s election to the Portage Co. Circuit Court. Molepske was elected to Branch II in April, and for the past week has been shadowing other judges in preparation for his July 22 investiture.
Cousins will serve for the remainder of the term that ends in January 2025.
In a statement to the press, Evers called Cousins a “distinguished prosector” with strong relationships in the community and a strong sense of respect for everyone that comes through the criminal justice system.
“His experience, the strong relationships he has built in the community, and his dedication to ensuring fair and just outcomes that protect the public and meet the rehabilitative needs of the offender will make him an excellent district attorney for the people of Portage County,” Ever said.
Cousins has been a prosecutor his entire legal career with over 100 jury trials under his belt. From 2011-18, he served as an assistant district attorney in Molepske’s office. During this time, he prosecuted serious and complex cases, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault of a child, and conspiracy to deliver controlled substances. He was also involved in the development and implementation of a drug court and internal diversion program.
Since 2018, Cousins has served as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Litigation Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. In this position, he prosecutes criminal offenses related to drug overdose deaths and complex drug trafficking conspiracies.
Judge Thomas B. Eagon, who retires from Branch I this month, said Evers made “an excellent choice” in Cousins. Eagon will be replaced by former ADA Michael Zell.
“Cass is intelligent, thoughtful, and a skilled attorney who has earned the respect of those in the justice community,” Eagon said. “Cass has served Portage County for many years and is a proven leader who will assure all persons are treated fairly.”
Cousins lives in Stevens Point with his family and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School. In 2018, he was recognized by the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association as the Assistant District Attorney of the Year. In the community, he has judged moot court competitions and served as a mentor for students considering attending law school or becoming a prosecutor. He also has extensive experience training law enforcement and prosecutors on a broad range of topics.
“I am extremely honored to accept the appointment by Governor Evers to serve as Portage County District Attorney,” said Cousins. “The attorneys and staff in this office are a particularly dedicated and effective team, and I am grateful for the opportunity to join them and continue their tradition of prosecutorial excellence. I am also excited to continue the outstanding collaboration with our excellent law enforcement agencies and other community partners. As district attorney, I will be committed to serving our community with fairness, openness, and the diligent pursuit of justice.”
Cousins will take the office in mid-July. Until then, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Cassidy will be acting DA.