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Wisconsin roundup: DNR confirms another cougar sighting; Jakubowski sentenced to prison; more state news stories

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the 11th sighting of a cougar this year — the most documented activity by the big cats in the last eight years. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

SUPERIOR — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the 11th sighting of a cougar this year — the most documented activity by the big cats in the last eight years.

Although several have been spotted in central Wisconsin, the latest report comes from locations in Douglas County. DNR scientists say there is still no evidence the cougars are breeding here. It's believed they have roamed into the state from the west. Trail cameras in northwestern Wisconsin caught the latest visitor.


Subject of April manhunt given 14 years in prison

MADISON — The Wisconsin man who was at the center of a 10-day manhunt in April has been given a 14-year federal prison sentence.

Joseph Jakubowski admitted stealing 18 guns, two silencers and ammunition from Armageddon Supplies in Janesville. He was convicted of two felonies during a trial in September. The 33-year-old man who wrote a 161-page anti-government manifesto cursed at the judge and told him to, "give me freedom or give me death," at his Wednesday sentencing. Fourteen of the stolen guns are still missing and Jakubowski has refused to say where they are.


State unemployment drops to 3.2 percent in November

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development reports Thursday that the state's unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in November.

That's the state's lowest unemployment rate in 18 years and 0.2 percentage points down from October's jobless rate. The national unemployment rate in November was 4.1 percent. The number of private-sector jobs in the state increased by 2,800 between October and November.


Owen police chief steps down amid investigation

OWEN — Owen Police Chief Andrew Schade turned in his resignation Wednesday while the investigation into misconduct allegations continues.

Schade has been on paid administrative leave since September. He was scheduled to make an appearance before the Police Disciplinary Committee next month. The Dunn County Sheriff's Office has been investigating charges that the chief failed to follow proper procedure in an OWI case, used his law enforcement discount to buy a personal firearm and let friends get off without punishment for criminal activity.


No charges against deputy in fatal shooting

BLACK RIVER FALLS — The Jackson County district attorney's office has determined the deputy who shot a man to death in October acted in self-defense.

Deputy Justin Wathke was responding to a domestic disturbance call when the officer-involved shooting occurred. When he tried to make a traffic stop on the vehicle 27-year-old Lucas DeFord was driving, Ford kept going until he was at the victim's home. Investigators say DeFord then ran to the window of Wathke's squad car and pointed what looked like a semi-automatic handgun at the deputy's head. Wathke shot DeFord twice. The gun turned out to be a pellet or BB gun.


Democratic lawmaker no longer caucusing with party

MADISON — A Democratic state representative from Milwaukee is no longer attending his party's caucus meetings.

Members talk about strategy in the closed-door sessions on bills they are supporting, amendments to be drafted and other potential legislative action. Rep. Josh Zepnick has been accused of kissing two women against their will at political events. He has refused calls from his own party's leadership to resign. Zepnick has already been removed from five committee assignments.


Two major northwoods events join forces

HAYWARD — Two major Northwoods sporting events have agreed to share resources and management services in the coming year.

The Lumberjack World Championship is merging with the American Berkebeiner cross-country ski race. Headquarters for both events are in Hayward. Birkie Week will run from Feb. 22-25, while the Lumberjack Championship is scheduled for July 19-21. The agreement is contracted for one year, but unless one of the organizations terminates the deal, it will automatically renew.


State’s U.S. senators have drastically different takes on tax bill

WASHINGTON — Your view of the tax overhaul package passed by Congress Wednesday depends on which side of the aisle you sit.

Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson calls the passage of pro-growth tax reform that allows American business to compete globally a necessary step. He says it is a significant improvement. Democrat Tammy Baldwin calls the package passed in the Senate and House a tax give-away to the wealthiest few, big corporations and Wall Street. She says millions of middle class families will face tax hikes, adding "That's just not right and it's not fair."


Ryan: You’ll like the tax bill when your take-home pay grows

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan predicts Americans will like the tax reform package just passed when their paychecks are bigger.

The Wisconsin Republican tells reporters there is a lot of confusion about what the bill does or doesn't do. He says the results will speak for themselves. Last-minute technical changes meant the House of Representatives had to pass the measure a second time in two days. Ryan says the average taxpayer in every income group will get a cut.