Will Drake Bell go to jail? Actor pleads guilty to sending inappropriate messages to minor
Bell 'developed a relationship' with a Canadian girl, who was 15 at the time, and pleaded guilty to sending her inappropriate messages
Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell has pleaded guilty to two charges related to crimes involving a minor that could see him jailed for up to two years. On Wednesday, June 23, Bell appeared before a court in Cleveland virtually, where he initially pleaded not guilty. The charges were related to inappropriate messages sent to a 15-year-old Canadian girl in 2017 when he was in Cleveland for a concert.
Right now, the whole country is focused on the scandal of Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who reportedly has sex with a minor. He is, however, far from the only one. Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner reportedly rejoined Confide, the same app he used in a sexting scandal with a 15-year-old. In April, YouTuber James Charles apologized after he was caught flirting with 16-year-olds.
Bell was arrested and charged in early June by prosecutors in Cuyahoga County after Cleveland Police was contacted by Canadian authorities. Initially, he pleaded not guilty but has now changed his plea to guilty, which could see him spend time behind bars. Here's what we know so far about the case.
What is Drake Bell charged with?
The actor, who appeared on the children's show 'Drake & Josh', has been charged with attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He has pleaded guilty to both charges, after agreeing to a deal. Under Ohio law, attempted child endangerment is a fourth-degree felony with a maximum sentence between six and 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Disseminating matter harmful to juveniles is a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Judge Timothy McCormick, who was hearing the case, did say Bell could face time in prison, but that it was not mandatory. According to Cleveland 19 News, if Bell does go to prison he would be subjected to a discretionary period of three years post-release control after he’s released. Sentencing is scheduled for July 12. There is no indication as of now if Bell will face time in prison.
The case came to light after the victim contacted her local police department after returning to Canada. We do know that on December 1, 2017, the girl and Bell engaged in an inappropriate chat, after they "established a relationship" years prior. In the months leading up to the concert, the two engaged in sexual conversations, prosecutors say. Then, in October 2018, the girl revealed the messages to police in Canada, who contacted Cleveland Police, sparking off an investigation. The case was prosecuted by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
The prosecutor argues that Bell "violated his duty of care and, in doing so, created a risk of harm to the victim," during the pre-trial hearing on June 23. In early June, he initially pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on a $2,500 bond. It is unclear what the plea deal entails, but Bell has now changed his plea to guilty. "If you plead guilty, you understand that is an admission by you that you did these crimes?" the judge asked.
The 34-year-old appeared in court via Zoom, since he reportedly lives in Los Angeles. It is possible the plea deal could entail less time in prison or no time at all. We will know only on July 12 after the sentencing.