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Actor Drake Bell, called a “monster” today by the victim in a 2017 Ohio child endangerment case, was given two years of probation and a suspended one-year jail sentence in a Cleveland courtroom today following the actor’s guilty pleas last month to counts of attempted child endangering and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Bell appeared for the sentencing via Zoom today in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas courtroom with Judge Timothy McCormick. The charges carried a possible prison term of up to two years, though prison was not mandatory. In addition to probation, Bell was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, all of it to be served in California.
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In a contentious hearing during which both Bell and the now-19-year-old woman appeared via Zoom, the sentencing was preceded by a victim impact statement during which she seemed to introduce new details – including allegations of sexual contact that she said occurred when she was a minor – that appeared to surprise the former Drake & Josh star.
“Don’t look at me like that!,” the victim said in a raised voice when Bell widened his eyes and shook his head in reaction to her account of backstage oral sex when she was 15 years old.
“I idolized and looked up to him,” the victim said, at another point saying, “He was calculating, he preyed on me and he sexually abused me. He is a monster and a danger to children. He is sorry he’s finally been caught. He committed these crimes with pride, and he can give me that look all he wants but he knows exactly what I’m talking about. My suffering is not for him to brag about or use as leverage about how he’s become a good person now that he’s a father.”
Bell’s attorney said the victim’s impact statement included serious allegations that the actor had not been charged with nor been the counts to which Bell pleaded guilty. He ascribed the victim’s allegations to anger over Bell’s engagement and marriage.
The judge said his sentencing was based solely on the two counts of the guilty plea agreement: one count of attempted child endangering (a 4th-degree felony), to which Bell was sentenced to one year, and one count of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles (a 1st-degree misdemeanor), to which Bell was given a six-month sentence. The sentences were to run concurrently.
Bell has acknowledged engaging in text communications of a sexual nature with the girl.
Bell spoke briefly on advice from his attorney, due to potential civil litigation. “I just want to say today I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong,” the actor said, adding, “I have taken this matter very, very seriously,” and that he had not intended to cause harm. “I just want to apologize to her and anyone else who may have been affected by my actions.”
Making allegations that went far beyond the two counts to which Bell pleaded guilty, the victim, in an often shaky voice, described first meeting Bell when she was 12 years old, through an acquaintance of her aunt. “He was a hero to me,” she said. “I would have done anything for him.” The victim – whose name was not used during today’s sentencing hearing although her face was shown in split screen during a public livestream – said she met Bell “many times” from the ages of 12 to 15.
“He told me I was beautiful and boys were stupid,” she said, also recounting how, when she turned 15, Bell “told me to hurry up.” Seeing the actor’s surprised reaction to that statement today, the victim paused her Zoom testimony to shout, “Don’t smile at me!”
The victim also said today that nude photos were exchanged, an allegation Bell’s attorney, Ian Friedman, vociferously denied, noting that no photos had ever been presented as evidence.
Friedman also disputed the victim’s account of sexual relations both backstage and in the actor’s hotel room, noting that other adults had been present at all times. “What the victim is claiming occurred here, the evidence would suggest it did not happen,” the attorney said. “If the state felt it had a provable case, we would not be her talking about [the two lesser] charges.”
The defense attorney also said that Bell has paid a penalty in a “loss of employment,” and that his reputation has been severely damaged.
Responded Judge McCormick, “There were serious and disturbing allegations made here today but we can’t lose focus on what he pled to. He did not plead to sexual misconduct.
“However, a grown man does not engage in inappropriate text messages to a teenager,” he said, referencing the sexual nature of the communications between Bell and the victim. “Harm may have befallen” the actor professionally, the judge said, then addressed Bell directly with, “but your celebrity status is what enabled you to nurture this relationship. It’s a two-edged sword.”
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