American actor and musician Drake Bell has gone a long way from being a prince of television to dealing with legal issues. Once a promising star and one of the leads on Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, Bell has struggled with legal problems in the past decade.
Five years ago, Bell was sentenced to four days in jail and four years of summary probation after pleading no contest to driving under the influence. The officer caught him driving uncontrollably, swerving and speeding after abruptly stopping at a red light. The officer could smell alcohol from the car, prompting him to put the actor through a sobriety test. Bell not only failed the test but refused to take a chemical test. In 2010, Bell was also convicted of driving under the influence in San Diego.
Recently, Drake Bell was sentenced to one year of probation by an Ohio court following charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. The incidents arose in Cleveland in 2017 when a then-fifteen-year-old victim attended Bell’s concert. During that time, the actor violated his duty of care, creating a risk of harm to the victim. The investigation also found that Bell had been sending the victim inappropriate social media messages in the months leading to the concert.
The actor pleaded guilty, and his sentence was given after a lengthy statement from Bell’s victim, who attended court via videoconference. Now nineteen years old, the victim revealed their text exchanges occurred after meeting him through her aunt seven years ago. “He was a hero to me,” she said, revealing that Bell groomed her when she was twelve. Initially, the victim felt secure and protected during their online exchanges, but after turning fifteen, the actor’s messages started to turn “blatantly sexual.” The victim admitted that she felt trapped as she “idolized” Bell, but his remarks made her feel uncomfortable.
During the sentencing, the victim revealed her previous admiration for Drake Bell. “I was definitely one of his biggest fans,” she said. “I would have done anything for him.” She explained that she and the actor exchanged explicit photos online before telling the court that he engaged in sexual conduct with her on several occasions, citing nine incidents when she attended his concert and at a hotel. The victim called Bell a “pedophile” and a “coward.”
“Every night, I dread going to sleep because I don’t want to see him in my nightmares,” she said, “He was such a huge part of my childhood, and in return, he ruined my life.”
Ian Friedman, Drake Bell’s attorney, acknowledged the texts that were sexual in nature but denied the assaults. “His conduct was not correct, it was not proper,” Friedman said, “But I have to be very clear. What is the victim is claiming to have occurred here—not only am I saying that it did not happen, not only would Mr. Bell say that that did not happen, but the evidence, in this case, suggests that it did not happen.”
Drake Bell participated in the sentencing, taking accountability for his actions. “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.” The victim could be seen crying as Bell delivered his statement.
Bell’s probation is set to be transferred to California, where he currently resides. A court will hold a hearing to review his sexual offender status.