Drake Bell, of Drake and Josh fame, has been sentenced to two years probation in a Cleveland court after pleading guilty to “felony attempted child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles” in June, AP reports. Bell will be allowed to serve out his probation sentence and 200 hours of community service in California, where he lives. At his sentencing hearing, Bell made a statement via Zoom, saying, “I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong. I’m sorry the victim was harmed. It was not my intention.”
The victim was also present via Zoom, where she explained the nature of her interactions with Bell. The victim, now 19, began communicating with Bell online when she was 12 years old, stating that she was “definitely one of his biggest fans.” After she turned 15, she says, their online conversations became “blatantly sexual” with the two exchanging sexually explicit messages. The victim also claims that she and Bell “engaged in sexual conduct” several times, including when she went to see him in concert in Cleveland, where the charges were filed.
Bell’s lawyer, Ian Friedman, denies that the messages between Bell and the teenaged girl were ever explicit and says that there was no sexual contact between the two. Friedman argued “the inappropriate conduct that did occur were reflected in the charges Bell pleaded to last month” but did not elaborate further on what the conduct was.
Meanwhile, the young woman at the center of this case referred to her interactions with Bell as grooming, and acknowledged that at the time they had been communicating online, “I would have done anything for him.” The judge presiding over the hearing called the allegations against Bell “serious and disturbing” but was unable to render harsher punishment due to the plea Bell had made to lesser charges.