Jared Drake Bell is known to many families and kids as one half of the “Drake & Josh” duo from the hit Nickelodeon show which began airing in 2004. Drake Bell was known for entertaining kids. Now, he may be known for endangering them.
The now 35-year-old actor recently plead guilty to felony attempted child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
How did Bell go from entertaining kids to endangering them, and what does that mean for his future as a free man?
The Case Against Drake Bell
In October 2018, a 15-year-old girl contacted police in Toronto, Canada to report an incident that happened between her and Bell in December 2017.
The victim, who is now 19-years-old, told investigators that she and Bell had engaged in sexual conduct at a concert venue in Cleveland, Ohio. She told investigators she had a relationship with Bell that started when she was just 12. She believed Bell had been “grooming” her since she was a child, keeping in touch with her until eventually sharing explicit photos and becoming “blatantly sexual” with her after she turned 15.
The information that Toronto investigators uncovered led them to forward their findings to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in Cleveland, Ohio.
Under that jurisdiction, Bell, who is a California resident, was eventually charged for the incident occurring at the Cleveland concert. He was charged with felony attempted child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Drake Bell’s Changing Pleas
Bell originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney Ian Friedman disputed the girl’s claims that Bell sent her explicit photos and engaged in sexual conduct with her. Bell seemed to want to fight the charges with Friedman stating, “All facts will be revealed in a courtroom.”
But, Bell eventually changed his plea.
Bell plead guilty to felony attempted child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
“I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong,” Bell said. “I’m sorry the victim was harmed. It was 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.”
What Consequences Does Bell Face?
Bell’s case was held in the Ohio court system. Under Ohio law, child endangerment can come with a range of penalties. Depending on the severity of the charges, penalties can range from a few months to a few years in prison as well as resulting in community service hours, fines, and probation.
But, Bell will face no prison time.
He was sentenced in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court by Judge Timothy McCormick to two years probation, 200 hours of community service, and have no contact with the victim.
Taking a Plea Deal But Not Accepting Full Responsibility
While Bell may have faced less serious consequences by admitting fault and acknowledging some wrong-doing, his attorney continued to state that the charges weren’t warranted.
In a statement to NBC News, Friedman said, “The victim’s allegations that went beyond that which all parties agreed, not only lack supporting evidence but are contradicted by the facts learned through extensive investigation. As the court made clear, this plea was never about sexual misconduct or sexual relations with any person, let alone a minor.”
Regardless of what Friendman said after the hearing, Bell admitted to wrong-doing by making his guilty plea and will face the consequences laid out by the judge.
How Serious Are Child Endangerment Charges?
In Bell’s case, it was said that he “violated his duty of care” for the young fan.
Child endangerment laws punish behavior that can endanger a child’s life, health, or emotional well-being. They refer to a range of activities that put a person under the age of 18 at risk. Child endangerment charges can relate to activities such as:
- Driving a car while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle
- Exposing a child to drug transactions
- Failing to secure a child in a car seat properly
- Having unsecured firearms near a child
- Leaving a child without supervision
There does not need to be intent in child endangerment cases. If a child is harmed or could have been harmed by the adult’s actions, the adult can face legal consequences. Child endangerment is a serious charge and can lead to serious consequences. If you have any questions about a criminal case, talk to an experienced defense attorney who can help you understand the full scope of the charges and potential outcomes.