In June 2021, former child actor Drake Bell was charged with attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles in a disturbing case involving a teenaged fan he’d encountered at a concert. The troubling legal saga has now come to a close with the recent trial in an Ohio courthouse, leading to unexpected sentencing and questionable celebration from the Nickelodeon alum.
Bell was accused of behaving inappropriately with a minor after a teenage girl alleged that he had engaged in sexual conversation and sexually assaulted her on two different occasions in 2017. Investigation by local authorities in Ohio confirmed that Bell had been in contact with the minor, leading to his arrest and subsequent release on a $25,000 (roughly £18,000) bond. Initially, the actor denied the accusations, but in a shocking move, he pled guilty to both the misdemeanour and the felony at his June 23 virtual court appearance.
The guilty pleas turned out to be part of a plea deal that would significantly decrease the severity of his sentencing; Bell was potentially facing prison time and thousands of dollars worth of fines. However, his July 12 sentencing revealed a much lighter sentence that didn’t involve any jail time at all. Even after the now 19-year-old woman shared an emotional statement that detailed a harrowing experience of assault, the judge ultimately sentenced Bell to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service in his resident state of California. The woman, who appeared on camera but did not identify herself, claimed Bell began grooming her at age 12.
Bell's legal counsel was quick to point out that guilty plea was not an admission of guilt. Though the star had been inappropriate with the teenager in their text conversations, his attorney Ian Friedman disputed the claims of sexual assault. Nonetheless, Bell issued a statement addressing the allegations in front of the court and the victim.
"I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong," Bell said during the virtual sentencing. "I'm sorry that the victim was harmed in any way but that was obviously not my intention."