Drake Bell opens up about child endangerment conviction

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Drake Bell (Image source: Instagram)
Drake Bell (Image source: Instagram)

Washington [US], September 18 (ANI): Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell, who was sentenced to two years' probation and community service in July after pleading guilty to charges stemming from his online conduct with an underage fan, has spoken out about his case.

The actor took to his Instagram handle and posted a video clarifying the two claims that have swirled around him over the last year before addressing his guilty plea.

Bell said he hasn't changed his last name despite an update to his social media handles and that he did not move to Mexico nor become a resident or citizen of that country despite rumours he had.

Pivoting towards his case, he described it as having "moved very quickly for you, but for me, it's been a three-year, thorough investigation into every false claim that has been made."

He alleged, "It's not me telling you that the claims are false, but the state of Ohio has proven claims to be false. If these claims were remotely true, my situation would be very different. I would not be here at home with my wife and my son."

As per the Hollywood Reporter, in July, Bell was sentenced to two years' probation on child endangerment charges and 200 hours of community service for his conduct with a young fan, whom he met online and then in person, that spanned years.

Authorities previously stated that in October 2018, the victim, who was 19 at the time of Bell's 2021 sentencing, contacted Toronto police, who forwarded their findings to Cleveland police, which prompted an investigation.

The victim stated that the former 'Drake and Josh' star began contact with her through online chats when she was 12, with those communications escalating to exchanges that were "blatantly sexual" by the time she was 15, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The young woman, who called Bell a "pedophile" during his July hearing in Cleveland, said that the two had exchanged explicit photos and engaged in sexual conduct with her on several occasions, including at a 2017 concert venue in Cleveland and at a hotel.

In his video, Bell stated that "I'm not perfect, and I make mistakes" and called his behaviour "reckless and irresponsible" but disputed that he maintained communication with the victim over a sustained period of time or that he knew who she was during in-person encounters.

He said, "I responded to a fan whose age I didn't know. When I became aware of their age, all conversation and communication stopped. This individual continued to come to shows and pay for meet-and-greets, and although I was unaware that this was the same person I was communicating with online, that's what I pled guilty to."

Initially, Bell had pleaded not guilty to the charges but ultimately reached a plea deal with prosecutors. He was convicted in June of felony attempted child endangerment, with a misdemeanour charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

The attempted endangerment charge is related to the concert, where Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Tyler Sinclair stated Bell "violated his duty of care" and created a risk of harm to the victim. The disseminating matter charge was related to "inappropriate social media messages," according to Sinclair.

In his video, Bell also addressed that misdemeanour charge and the text messages that were used as evidence in his case, denying that explicit images were exchanged and that anything "physical" had occurred between him and the victim.

"I want to make clear that there were no sexual images, nothing physical between me and this individual. I was not charged with anything physical. I was not charged with the disseminating of photographs or images or anything like that. This is strictly over text messages," he said.

Bell added, "When I was presented with a plea deal because of the messages, I felt that it was the best way to get this over quickly and for everybody involved to be able to move on and for me to get back to doing what I love."

He concluded his message by thanking fans for doing their own research and sticking by him. (ANI)

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