Actor Drake Bell could face as long as two years in prison after his criminal hearing on Wednesday, June 23. The former Nickelodeon star pleaded guilty to attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles over an incident that took place in 2017. According to a report by PEOPLE, the convictions could put him behind bars for two full years.
Bell originally pleaded not guilty to the charges against him when he was arrested in Cleveland earlier this month, but now he has reportedly struck a plea deal. The 34-year-old actor is accused if having a sexually explicit chat with a 15-year-old fan before a performance in Cleveland several years ago. This case is not related to the highly-publicized accusations of his ex-girlfriend, Melissa Lingafelt, who recently claimed publicly that Bell had been physically and verbally abusive to her. Bell's lawyer said little on Wednesday but indicated that there would be more information at the sentencing hearing on July 12.
Drake Bell has plead guilty to multiple charges against a minor. Months of denying this and liking tweets making fun of it on Twitter didn’t work out so well huh. pic.twitter.com/aBdIUJvbgu— 𝕬𝖘𝖍. 🥀 (@ashleelilliex) June 23, 2021
Bell's hearing on Wednesday was live-streamed by local ABC News affiliate News 5. The judge said: "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 misdemeanor the first degree."
The judge explained that the first charge carried a sentence of between 6 months and 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The second charge carries a sentence of up to 6 additional months in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. However, prison time is not mandatory for either of these counts. Bell could remain under some form of probation or supervision for up to three years after he leaves prison — if he serves time at all.
"However, if you go to prison, upon your release, you could be subjected to a discretionary period of three years post-release control. Post-release control could involve restrictions on your activities," the judge said. "If you were to violate those restrictions, you can be returned to prison, [for] up to a maximum of one-half of your original sentence."
Bell was present on the stream, where he was asked to verbally acknowledge all this information. The judge emphasized: "Do you understand if you plead guilty that is an admission by you that you did these crimes?" to which Bell answered: "Yes, Your Honor."
When contacted by reporters, Bell's lawyer Ian Friedman said: "All questions about this case will be answered at sentencing, including why Mr. Bell chose to enter his plea."