NAPLES — A nationally known child psychiatrist accused of pointing a gun at his teenage son and his friend, threatening to blow their heads off, lost a bid to have contact with his son today after a judge cited concern over possible witness tampering.
Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt denied a motion by Dr. James L. Schaller, 50, who is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill involving his son, then 15, and his 14-year-old friend and neighbor.
Collier Sheriff’s reports say that on Jan. 2, after the friend threatened to hit his mother, then pushed her as she was spanking him, Schaller pointed a black revolver at the teen and said: “That is assault and battery. Get into the car or I will blow your head off.”
Reports say Schaller’s son tried to get between his friend and father to “prevent his father from shooting (the friend) and that is when James Schaller turned toward (his son) and threatened to blow his head off also.”
Schaller, an author of 25 books, including children’s fiction, specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, ADD, and oppositional disorders, in addition to “mystery illnesses,” Lyme Disease, fatigue, and mold problems. He’s a staunch gun advocate and has several websites offering telephone consultations.
The ruling came after Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier granted a motion for supervised visitation for both boys in the family dependency case, which involves the state Division of Children and Families. A criminal judge often adheres to that ruling, but Assistant State Attorney Chris Klink objected and Hardt cited concern over the allegations and denied the motion to have contact with the son involved in the criminal case, his oldest.
Defense attorney Lee Hollander of Naples told the judge Krier made her ruling after Family Preservation Services, which oversees the children, didn’t object. But Klink argued the purpose of Family Preservation Services is to reunite children with their families. He objected to the son, a witness in the case against his father, having contact with him.
“He’s also a material witness in reference to the allegations regarding the second victim,” Klink said. “... The state has concern if the victim is living with his mother in the house.”
Naples attorney Dave Agoston, who represents Schaller’s sons as their attorney ad litem, told the judge both boys have a “strong desire” to see their father.
The boys’ mother has completed the DCF case plan, which is required before reunification with her sons, Hollander said, while the father’s, which involves an evaluation and substance-abuse testing, is pending.
“Everybody is doing what needs to be done,” Hollander said. “That’s why Judge Krier approved this step. The psychiatrist’s report said the separation from the father is psychologically harmful ... for (the son). He can’t even talk to his father.”
However, the judge said contact was a concern, noting, “That could be a problem. Are they going to talk about the case?”
Joyce Schaller moved out of their Indigo Lakes home with both their sons to comply with the no-contact order and to regain custody, Hollander said, adding, “The children were being bounced around from foster care to foster care. ... (The son) is having a hard time with this.”
The judge wasn’t surprised. “I can imagine he would be having a hard time with what happened. I would bet,” Hardt said, denying the motion to modify the no-contact order.
Schaller’s wife cried and walked into a conference room outside the courtroom, where her sons were waiting. She was crying as she walked out and the one son stormed off, angrily cursing whoever was responsible.
Hollander said Schaller declined comment, adding, “He’s disappointed.”
Agoston also said he and the boys were disappointed, but understood the judge was concerned about the pending criminal case.
“Both want normal contact with their father,” he added. “... I don’t think there are safety concerns based on what’s transpired in dependency court.”
Schaller, who has no criminal record, is free on $10,000 bond and faces up to five years each for the third-degree felonies. Collier Sheriff’s reports give this account:
Deputies were called to the home of the teenage boy's friend on Indigo Lakes Circle home after 11 p.m. Jan. 2 after both boys sneaked out of their homes and were caught by the friend's mother, Jamie Kelenski, who began arguing with her son when he refused to get in her car.
She spanked him on the buttocks with a switch and he threatened to hit her if she continued, then pushed her when she spanked him again. Schaller heard, went into his house and returned with a small black revolver, pointed it at the boy and threatened him, then threatened his son when he got between them.
Deputies spoke with friend and his mother, who confirmed what occurred. “(The victim) stated that he was in fear for his life at the time that James Schaller pointed the gun at his head and threatened to blow his head off.”
Schaller told deputies he carries a small black revolver “at all times” and that he had other guns. Deputies removed three others from the home, but Schaller refused to unlock cabinets with more guns. A judge later ordered him to surrender all guns while the case is pending.
A month after his arrest, Schaller filed a federal libel and defamation lawsuit against four out-of-state defendants and unknown John Does, accusing them of tarnishing his good reputation, calling him a quack and pervert on websites and blogs, and urging patients to report him to licensing boards. The case is pending and his state medical license is clean.