The legal firestorm surrounding Drake Bell just took a complicated turn after the former child star's plea to the disturbing misdemeanour and felony charges launched against him in court changed seemingly overnight.
In early June, Bell was taken into Cleveland police custody and charged with attempted endangerment of a child (a felony) and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles (a misdemeanour). The arrest was based on an alleged incident involving the actor and a 15-year-old Canadian girl in Ohio; the teenager claimed that at one of Bell's December 2017 performances, he had allegedly "violated his duty of care" and "created risk of harm" to her. Further investigation by the Cleveland Division of Police revealed that the underaged girl and Bell had been in contact for some time before the concert, and he had engaged in an inappropriate, sexual conversation with her via social media.
After posting his $2,500 USD bond following his arrest, Bell appeared in a Cuyahoga County court and pleaded not guilty. However, at his June 23 virtual court appearance, things changed when the Drake and Josh star pleaded guilty to both the misdemeanour and felony charges. The reason for the new strategy seems to be directly related to a plea deal that will see Bell facing a less severe punishment.
"My understanding is there's been a plea agreement reached where the defendant will plead guilty to count one attempted endangering children, a felony in the fourth degree [and] plead guilty to count two: disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, a misdemeanour the first degree," the judge began.
Both of the charges could land Bell behind bars — attempted child endangerment might see the actor facing 18 months in prison, and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles has a six month maximum prison stint. During the virtual hearing, the judge also pointed out that Bell's freedom post-prison would be contingent upon his behaviour after being released; if he were to violate certain "restrictions" on his daily activities, he would likely be sent back to prison to do "up to a maximum of one half of [his] original sentence."
The exact details of Bell's plea deal and the legal ramifications of it will all be revealed when he and his legal counsel return to court for sentencing on July 12. During that final stage of the court case, Bell's accuser may be able to read out a written victim statement if she so pleases.
This isn't Bell's first time being named as a predator towards minors. Just last year, his ex-girlfriend Melissa Lingafelt shared a number of TikToks accusing him of preying on underaged girls as well as physically and emotionally abusing her throughout the duration of their long-term relationship. Following her initial social media posts, Lingafelt revealed messages from a number of other women and girls who claimed to have had similar experiences with Bell. The actor rebuffed the allegations, saying that Lingafelt's accusations were simply "some kind of misguided quest for more money or attention."
This is a developing story.