Drake Bell avoided jail time in his child endangerment case, but the claims against him were made public for the first time — and they are disturbing.
The actor, born Jared Bell, pleaded guilty on June 23 to felony attempted endangering children and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. During a virtual appearance at a Cleveland court on Monday, the 35-year-old was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service. He is also prohibited from contacting the victim.
During the hearing, Bell’s victim, now 19, spoke publicly for the first time to read a statement in which she called the Drake & Josh alum “the epitome of evil.” She accused Bell of grooming her from the age of 12 before allegedly sexually abusing her when she was 15.
“I chose to write this statement because I want justice to be served more than anything,” she began over Zoom. “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.”
She detailed the “pain” Bell allegedly caused her, which she said resulted in panic attacks and nightmares. She also said her parents have spent more than $7,000 for her to go to therapy.
“He was calculating. He preyed on me and sexually abused me,” she said, alleging that he sent her photos of his genitalia. “He is a monster and a danger to children.”
She concluded, “Jared Drake Bell is a pedophile and that is his legacy.”
Bell’s attorney, Ian Friedman, said during the hearing that his client had “accepted responsibility in this case” via his plea. However, Friedman disputed the victim’s claims that she and Bell had exchanged explicit photos, claiming there was no such evidence.
Bell issued his own brief statement to the judge before receiving his official sentencing. “I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong,” he said. “I’m sorry that the victim was harmed in any way, but that was obviously not my intention. I have taken this matter very, very seriously. And again, I just want to apologize to her and anyone else who may have been affected by my actions.”
The judge declared that Bell “did take advantage” of the victim as she didn’t have “the emotional or mental maturity to properly engage” in their 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].”
In a statement issued after the sentencing, Bell’s attorney said, “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. Drake and his family are relieved to have this matter behind them. He looks forward to, once again, performing for all of his supportive fans around the world.”
Statement on behalf of Drake Bell by Attorneys Ian Friedman and Madelyn Grant: pic.twitter.com/tYG7Rb7hhz
— Ian Friedman (@IanNFriedman) July 12, 2021
Local NBC affiliate KXAN previously reported that the incident occurred on Dec. 1, 2017, the same day Bell was scheduled to perform at a venue in Cleveland. The incident involved Bell engaging in an inappropriate chat with the 15-year-old victim that was at times sexual in nature.
Though he initially pleaded not guilty to the charges following his arrest, Bell later agreed to a plea deal and said he was guilty of both charges. His attorney told PEOPLE at the time: “All questions about this case will be answered at sentencing, including why Mr. Bell chose to enter his plea.”
Less than a week later, the Drake & Josh alum revealed on Twitter that he is married and has a child.
Como respuesta a varios rumores que son incorrectos, yo hemos estado casados por casi 3 años, y tenemos la bendición de ser padres de un maravilloso hijo.
Muchas gracias a todos mis fans alrededor del mundo por sus buenos deseos.
— Drake Campana ?? (@DrakeBell) June 30, 2021
In a June 29 statement written in Spanish, Bell — who performs under the name Drake Campana — wrote, “In response to various rumors that are incorrect, I have been married for almost 3 years, and we are blessed to be the parents of a wonderful son. Thank you very much to all my fans around the world for your good wishes.”
The statement came after Bell and his longtime partner Janet Von Schmeling were photographed with a baby stroller and matching wedding bands during a visit to Disneyland.
Bell’s current legal drama comes almost a year after his ex-girlfriend, Melissa Lingafelt, accused him of physical and verbal abuse. He denied the allegations at the time.
2 years probation seems light.