Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell has been sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty to criminal charges pertaining to a minor.
The Drake & Josh actor pleaded guilty to charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating harmful material to children in a court hearing last month. The two charges specifically refer to a then-15-year-old girl who met Bell online and attended a concert of his in Cleveland in 2017. Bell had initially pleaded not guilty, but took a plea deal in June.
As People reports, the actor was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service during a virtual court hearing in Cleveland yesterday (July 12). Prior to receiving the sentence, Bell read out a statement.
“I’m sorry that the victim was harmed in any way, but that was obviously not my intention,” he said. “I have taken this matter very, very seriously. And again, I just want to apologise to her and anyone else who may have been affected by my actions.”
Prosecutors said that Bell had had a conversation with the victim that was at times sexual in nature, the New York Times reported, and sent her inappropriate messages in the months leading up to that Cleveland concert.
The victim, who is now 19, also read out a statement in court, calling Bell “the epitome of evil”.
“The only time that the defendant has appeared in court in person was on June 3 for his arraignment, which was before the media found out about the case. He has appeared in court today over Zoom instead of appearing in person. This doesn’t surprise me and shows what a coward he is, but I am not a coward.”
The victim alleged that Bell had ‘groomed’ her since she was 12 years old and sent her messages that were sexual in nature when she was 15.
She detailed how she has experienced panic attacks and nightmares because of Bell, and claimed she had to undergo $7,000 worth of therapy.
“He was calculating. He preyed on me and sexually abused me,” she said, alleging that Bell had sent her explicit photos of his genitals. “He is a monster and a danger to children.
“Jared Drake Bell is a pedophile and that is his legacy.”
Bell’s attorney Ian Friedman said in court that the actor had “accepted responsibility in this case”, but denied that his client had sent the victim any explicit photos.
In a statement issued after the sentencing, Friedman added, “Today’s plea and sentence reflect conduct for which Mr. Bell did accept responsibility. The victim’s allegations that went beyond that which all parties agreed, not only lack supporting evidence but are contradicted by the facts learned through extensive investigation.
“As the court made clear, this plea was never about sexual misconduct or sexual relations with any person, let alone a minor. Sexual registration was not imposed as Mr. Bell did not plead guilty to any such offense.”
Statement on behalf of Drake Bell by Attorneys Ian Friedman and Madelyn Grant: pic.twitter.com/tYG7Rb7hhz
— Ian Friedman (@IanNFriedman) July 12, 2021
In court, the judge said Bell took advantage of the victim, given she did not have “the emotional or mental maturity to properly engage” in the situation.
“Your position and celebrity status enabled you to nurture this relationship,” the judge said.
“You were able to gain access to this child and you were able to gain the trust of the child. So it’s a two-edged sword, your position. I hope you truly are remorseful, I don’t know [if you are].”
Bell appeared on Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, which ran from 2004-2007. Bell also appeared in two Drake & Josh films with co-star Josh Peck.