Following his child endangerment conviction and his sentencing to two years probation, former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell is speaking out about his case.
In a video message posted to the 35-year-old musician-actor’s Instagram, Bell clarified 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 didn’t move to Mexico or become a resident or citizen of that country despite rumors he had. He then pivoted to his case, which he described 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.”
“It’s not me telling you that the claims are false, but the state of Ohio has proven claims to be false,” he alleged. “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.”
During his sentencing hearing in July, Cuyahoga County Judge Timothy McCormick stated that he had heard “a lot of serious and disturbing allegations” but added he “can’t lose focus on what was pled to,” The Associated Press reported.
“The fact of the matter is, your position and celebrity status let you nurture this relationship,” McCormick said. “You were able to gain access to this child.”
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.
According to the victim, the former Drake and Josh star began contact with her via online chats when she was 12, with those communications escalating to exchanges that were “blatantly sexual” by the time she was 15. The young woman, who called Bell a “pedophile” during his July hearing in Cleveland, said that the two had exchanged explicit photos and on several occasions — including at a concert venue in Cleveland and a hotel — engaged in sexual conduct.
In his video, Bell stated that “I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes” and called his behavior “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.
“I responded to a fan whose age I didn’t know. When I became aware of their age, all conversation and communication stopped,” he said. “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.”
Bell initially 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 misdemeanor 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 misdemeanor 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,” he said. “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.”
“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 added.
Bell ended his message by thanking fans for doing their own research and sticking by him.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who saw through the lies and did their research and looked at my case and saw for what it was, instead of through all this media confusion,” he said. “Don’t believe the media right off the bat. It’s a lot of clickbait. Do your own research and come to conclusions.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.