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Jared 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.
Bell, best known for playing Drake in Nickelodeon's popular TV show Drake and Josh, has been sentenced to two years' probation plus 200 hours of community service. He cannot have contact with the victim. The 35-year-old previously pleaded guilty to one count of felony attempted child endangerment and one count of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He faced up to two years in prison.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, Bell virtually came face-to-face with the victim who called him "the epitome of evil." The woman, now 19, alleged in her impact statement she was sexually assaulted by the former child star on multiple occasions when she was 15. (Bell did not plead guilty to any crimes pertaining to sexual assault.)
"He was such a huge part of my childhood, and in return, he ruined my life," she said at one point during her emotional 15-minute statement. "Every night I dread going to sleep because I don't want to see him in my nightmares."
The victim first met Bell in 2014, when she was only 12, through her aunt. She idolized the actor, calling him "a hero" and said she was his "biggest fan."
They texted for years, in which the teenager alleged she was groomed. The relationship developed online became sexual in nature when she turned 15. On Dec. 1, 2017, the victim attended Bell's Cleveland show where she claimed she was forced to perform a sexual act backstage. The next day, her aunt took her to say goodbye to Bell at a hotel where claimed she was forced to perform the sexual act again.
"Jared Drake Bell is a pedophile, and that is his legacy," the victim concluded.
Bell's attorney spoke after the teenager's tearful address to the court and made it clear the actor denies any sex act took place.
"The claim that he is a pedophile lacks any sort of factual support," he told the judge, emphasizing Bell does not accept responsibility for that in his plea. The attorney also noted how "professionals" were engaged during the investigation and "there is no such finding" the actor is a "pedophile."
When the judge asked what exactly Bell is taking responsibility for, the lawyer acknowledged chats that were "sexual in nature."
Bell spoke before the judge's ruling — but took his lawyer's advice and kept it brief as a civil suit is a possibility.
"I just want to say today that I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong. I'm sorry that the victim was harmed in any way," he said. "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 could only issue a sentence based on the plea in front of him; however, he scolded Bell for inappropriate conduct.
"A grown man does not engage in inappropriate text messages to a teenager," the judge told him, saying he took advantage of the young girl with his celebrity status. "Your position and celebrity status allowed you to nurture this relationship."
Bell's sex offender status will be reviewed after probation.
While the actor hasn't addressed today's sentencing, he did return to social media after the Zoom hearing. Bell posted a video with his son, showing off the boy's face for the first time. The singer recently revealed he and wife, Janet Von Schmeling— whom the victim claimed knew about the crimes — secretly welcomed a child together.
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