Santa Cruz Island hunting concessionaire Jaret Owens, whose Ojai home was raided in a federal grave-robbing investigation, has been cleared of any criminal activity following a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury probe, officials confirmed Friday.
"I've determined that there's no reason to file charges against Jaret Owens," said Darryl Perlin, the deputy district attorney who oversaw a grand jury inquiry that ended Friday. "There's nothing that would support it. . . . There is no evidence that would support a criminal prosecution."
The grand jury did indict island hunting guide Brian Krantz, 33, two weeks ago for felony grave robbing and a variety of misdemeanors, including destroying an archeological site. Two other island caretakers were charged earlier with guiding and serving food without a license, all misdemeanors.
Owens had also been named as a suspect. After being cleared on Friday, Owens condemned the National Park Service for its two-year undercover investigation that was capped in January by a military-style raid on two island hunting camps.
He said he was contemplating a lawsuit to recover lost business revenue and to punish federal agents for what he saw as investigative overkill with political underpinnings.
"It was a total witch hunt and total harassment by the National Park Service," Owens said. "They started an investigation because they were really looking for something to get my business off that island and to give us a bad name."
Owens said the raid and arrest of three of his island caretakers helped the federal government justify taking Oxnard attorney Francis Gherini's one-quarter share of the 6,300-acre island ranch. The park service had already bought three-quarters of the ranch from Gherini's siblings, but Gherini refused to sell and Congress seized the property Feb. 10.
Carol Spears, spokeswoman for Channel Islands National Park, declined to discuss the case because she had not spoken to Perlin to confirm his decision.
"We need to see the actual results from the grand jury," she said. "I haven't seen them yet."
Previously, park service officials have said they had a strong case against island caretakers, that the inquiry was justified and showed the park service is determined to protect Chumash burial sites. They had said Owens was being investigated for possibly violating state business laws designed to protect natural resources.
Owens, 47, and his father, Duane Owens, each testified before the grand jury Friday morning. Owens said his father, a former high school principal in Ojai who ran the hunting concession for years, explained that many of the Chumash relics seized during raids had been accumulated over decades and testified that some had been kept in storage since they were gathered by university researchers in 1926.
Authorities Friday returned about 90% of Owens' possessions that were confiscated as evidence from his home, including business records and a computer, Jaret Owens said.
"They put me out of business, and it was not fair," he said, adding that hundreds of hunters, who paid $550 to $750 for four-day trips, canceled trips after the raid.
Owens' business, however, had been set to close Feb. 10, since the government seized the ranch as the final piece of individually owned land in Channel Islands National Park.