Former Drake & Josh actor Jared “Drake” Bell was sentenced to two years of probation on Monday for charges involving endangerment of a child in Ohio.
“I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong,” Bell said via Zoom at his sentencing. “I’m sorry the victim was harmed. It was not my intention. I take this matter very seriously, and, again, I just want to apologize to her and anyone else who may have been affected by my actions.”
In June, the 35-year-old Nickelodeon star had already pleaded guilty to attempted endangerment of a child, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating harmful material to juveniles. An investigation found that the 15-year-old girl and Bell had a relationship for years prior and that she attended his concert in December 2017.
A spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office previously said that Bell had "violated his duty of care” and “created a risk of harm to the victim” at the concert, in addition to sending her “inappropriate social media messages” in the months leading up to the event.
Bell initially pleaded not guilty last month in the case, which was brought to Cleveland police after the teenager filed a complaint with Toronto authorities in 2018. Bell was arraigned on June 3 and released from custody on a $2,500 bond.
The teenager, who said Bell started reaching out to her when she was 12, spoke via Zoom on Monday about the distress he had caused her. She called the former child star a “pedophile” and said they had sent each other explicit photos and engaged in sexual activity at the Cleveland concert venue and a hotel.
“I was definitely one of his biggest fans,” the victim, now 19, said in a split-screen Zoom call with the court and Bell. She first met the actor as a young girl when her aunt, who knew him, introduced them. “I would have done anything for him.”
She said she grew to lean on Bell for advice, especially about mental health issues. The actor made her feel “protected” and “loved,” and she sought “boy advice” from him at the age of 13. Bell told her that “boys were stupid” and then sent her a photo of herself at 12 years old he had screenshotted from her own Instagram account, calling her a “cutie.”
She said the messages with Bell escalated after she turned 15, when he told her to “hurry up” and began sending her increasingly sexual communication. She said she began to fear telling him that the sexual exchanges made her feel “disgusting.”
“I idolized and looked up to him,” she added, growing emotional.
“His crimes are not heartbreaking or whatever other loose term he uses. They are disgusting. He didn't care then and he doesn't care now,” she added. “That makes me feel worthless.”
Cuyahoga County Judge Timothy McCormick will permit Bell to serve probation and 200 hours of community service in California where he lives, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Bell is also not allowed to have any contact with the victim. The case will be referred to the California probation department, which will determine whether he will need to register as a sex offender.
"Today's plea and sentence reflect conduct for which Mr. Bell did not 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," Bell's attorneys, Ian Friedman and Madelyn Grant, said in a statement. "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 and grateful to have this matter behind him. He looks forward to, once again, performing for all of his supportive fans around the world."
The woman said she feels like she is in a “constant dark place” and her parents have spent $7,620 on therapy to overcome the “sickening” suffering the actor caused her.
“He was calculating. He preyed on me and he sexually abused me,” the woman told the court. “He is a monster and a danger to children. … And he can give me that look all he wants, but he knows exactly what I’m talking about.”