Drake Bell's Victim Accused Him of Grooming, Sexual Assault During Hearing — Read Her Statement
The actor was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service in his child endangerment case
A 19-year-old girl accused Drake Bell of sexual assault in a lengthy statement read during his sentencing on Monday.
The Drake & Josh alum, born Jared Bell, was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to attempted endangering children, a fourth-degree felony, and a misdemeanor charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He is also prohibited from contacting the victim.
The sentencing was preceded by the victim's impact statement, during which she alleged that Bell groomed her from the age of 12 before sexually assaulting her when she was 15.
Bell's attorney, Ian Friedman, said during the hearing that his client had "accepted responsibility in this case" via his plea. However, Friedman disputed the victim's claims that she and Bell had exchanged explicit photos, claiming there was no such evidence. Bell was not charged with sexual abuse, and his lawyer denied the victim's allegation that he had engaged in such abuse.
Bell issued his own brief statement via Zoom to the judge on Monday. "I accept this plea because my conduct was wrong," he said. "I'm sorry that the victim was harmed in any way, but that was obviously 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."
Tyler Sinclair, the Public Information Officer for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, told PEOPLE on Monday that "the Cleveland Police Department and this office did an extensive investigation into this matter."
"Numerous factors including strength of the evidence were weighed during our plea discussions with defense counsel," Sinclair continued. "The victim was consulted throughout this process and approved of the final outcome."
Read the victim's full statement below.
I chose to write this statement because I want justice to be served more than anything. The only time that the defendant has appeared in court in person was on June 3 for his arraignment, which was before the media found out about this case. He has appeared in court today over Zoom, instead of appearing in person. This doesn't surprise me, and shows what a coward he is, but I am not a coward. And that is why I'm going to reveal all of the details of the crimes that he committed against me.
Aside from Cleveland, the only other time that the defendant sexually assaulted me was in October of 2017. It happened in Illinois in the middle of the night. He digitally penetrated me in the backseat of my aunt's car while she was driving him to a friend's house. Illinois police only agreed to move forward with that case if the Ohio police did not pursue this case. I don't understand, regardless of their reasons, why he has gotten away with sexually assaulting me in Illinois. So today I will be discussing the details of the crimes that he has pleaded guilty to and the impact that they have had on me. But before I do that, I would like to provide you with some context on my relationship with the defendant and what led up to these crimes.
This portion of my statement explains how he started grooming me when I was 12 years old. I started off as a fan of him. I was definitely one of his biggest fans. Everyone who knew me as a child knew that he was a hero to me. I would have done anything for him. When I was 11, I learned that my aunt had a mutual friend who knew the defendant. [That] led to my aunt taking me to meet him for the first time in 2014 when I was 12. I adored him and he instantly made me feel that he adored me right back. From the time I was 12 to 15, my aunt took me to meet him and spend time with him many times. After I met him for the first time, he started speaking to me more frequently online. I confided in him about very personal things about myself, including my struggle with my mental health. I went to him for advice and for someone to lean on, and he gave me that. I felt protected and loved by him. When I was 13, I went to him for boy advice. He told me that I was beautiful and that boys were stupid. He then sent me a photo of myself that he had screencapped from my Instagram, telling me that I was, quote, "Such a cutie." I took and uploaded that photo online a year earlier when I was 12 years old. He saved that photo of me onto his phone. I didn't realize how disturbing that was for many years. Later, another instance of creepy behavior happened when I was spending time with him at the age of 14. He told me that he couldn't believe how much I'd grown since he last saw me. He said that I wasn't little anymore, and I was, quote, "A woman now."
When I was 15, I noticed a huge shift regarding his treatment and attitude towards me. When I was younger, he was sweet and actually wanted to talk to me about my life. But at 15, he started sending me messages about how, quote, "Hot," I was. In the summer of 2017, I messaged him, telling him that I was going to see him in concert in the following months. He replied by telling me that he couldn't wait to see me. He also asked me, quote, "How old are you now?" I told him 15. He then told me to, quote, "Hurry up. Don't smile at me." Not too long after that, his messages to me became blatantly sexual. This eventually led to many months of inappropriate messages and photos being exchanged over Instagram and Snapchat. The photos exchange included photos of my body, and photos of his body and his genitals. In the beginning, I was excited. I thought that he really liked me and I felt that I meant something to him, but that didn't last. Back then, the last thing I wanted was to lose him. Not only because I was completely infatuated with him, but because I became scared of him. There were times where I felt really uncomfortable talking to him in such graphic sexual ways and wanting to be left alone. But I had a very hard time telling him that, because I was terrified of upsetting him. So I would make excuses. When I did, quote, "Upset him," he made me cry. If I didn't give him what he wanted, he was spiteful. It made me feel guilty. He made me feel disgusting and absolutely awful about myself. At that point, it was clear that he was the one who was in control. I felt trapped and stuck because I still idolized him. He had me wrapped around his finger. This caused a tremendous amount of stress and shame, crimes that he committed against me in Cleveland. I want to make something very clear. The reason that these particular incidents did not result any further than oral sex was because the defendant knew that I was menstruating at the time. Had I not been menstruating, then he would have raped me. [To Bell over Zoom:] Don't look at me like that! [Continuing statement:] Because he would tell me how badly he wanted to penetrate me vaginally, but use much more vulgar language. On December 1, 2017, my aunt took me to the Odeon concert club to watch him perform. That night, the defendant took me backstage to be alone with him. He started kissing me and the night ended in him having me perform oral sex on him twice. The next incident happened on December 2, 2017. While I was alone with him in his hotel room, he had talked to me about seeing me one last time before we all left Cleveland and went home. So, we went to his hotel to say goodbye in his hotel room. He started kissing me and had me perform oral sex on him again. My aunt was right outside the room waiting in the hallway while this was happening. She trusted him, and never thought that he would ever do anything to hurt me.
Now, I would like to bring up an individual who has known about these crimes for years. This person is the defendant's partner, Janet Von. In January of 2018, I was engaging in an inappropriate conversation with who I thought was the defendant, until I received a message back from the defendant's account claiming to be Janet. That was the first interaction I ever had with her. This confused and devastated me. [Janet Von Schmeling was neither arrested nor charged in connection with this case, and did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.] And I begged the defendant for an explanation about that exchange with her. He brushed it off by repeatedly claiming that everything was fine. After these crimes happened, I tried to shake off all of the gross feelings that I had, ignoring those feelings only made them worse. I felt so miserable broken and humiliated. I was struggling to sleep every night. The sexual messages continued for a while after that until I eventually put a stop to them. I did that by confronting him about what he had done to me. I confronted him in September of 2018, just weeks before I reported the Illinois and Ohio crimes to my local police. I chose to confront him about what he had done to me because I wanted to gain my power back. I had to suck up all of the fear that I felt in order to confront him. He ignored me for many days at first. Eventually, he tried apologizing to me for, quote, "Breaking my heart," but deleted those messages quickly afterward. His crimes are not heartbreaking, or whatever other loose term he uses. They are disgusting. He didn't care then, and he doesn't care now. That makes me feel worthless. I confronted Janet as well. When I confronted her, she claimed that she didn't know anything about these crimes. She denied speaking with me in January of 2018, and claimed that wasn't her. She told me that none of this was my fault, and apologized to me. She also told me that she wanted to, quote, "Jump in front of a car." However, at one point, she asked me to let her know when I was going to the police with this case for her own benefit. Of course, I did not do that. She knows what happened and she doesn't care. Janet is just one of the few people who have tried to protect him, and the others will now know exactly who they are.
The pain that the defendant has caused me is indescribable and it worsens every day. Being used by somebody who meant the world to me has left me feeling more hurt than I've ever been before. I am now 19. My life hasn't been the same since I was 15. I think about these crimes every single day. I feel like I'm in a constant dark place. Sometimes I wish I could disappear, so I can forget about what happened right after I reported him. My parents sent me to a therapist. So far, they have spent $7,620 in hopes that she can help me move forward from this. These crimes have especially impacted my relationship with my aunt. For a while, I could not fathom how my aunt had no idea what was going on. And that made me doubt the trust that I had in her. To this day, there is still tension and awkwardness between her and myself every time I speak to her and look at her. I think about the defendant and what he did to me. My relationship with my aunt will never be the same, and that breaks my heart. My whole family is hurting, because I am hurting. Their trust in my aunt has been affected, too. My aunt blames herself for leaving me alone with the defendant. And then my parents blame themselves for placing our trust in my aunt to protect me and keep me safe. It's awful to hear [them] say that. Every night, I dread going to sleep because I don't want to see him in my nightmares. I have lost many nights of sleep because of this. I've lost count over how many times I fell asleep in class when I was in high school due to so many sleepless nights. I also occasionally had to leave school early due to having panic attacks that were triggered by these incidents during these panic attacks. I would struggle to breathe, sweat, shake, cry, and often faint. When I do sleep inducing in my nightmares, it throws off my entire day. I'm sorry. These crimes have affected my dating life as well. Every date I have since gone on has ended with me going home crying. Every time I feel the slightest bit vulnerable around a guy, all I can think of and see is the defendant. I have serious trust issues because of him. Dating as teenagers should be a fun experience and should not be something that brings up trauma caused by a grown man.
The defendant's crimes against me are the worst things that he could have ever done to me. He was such a huge part of my childhood, and in return he ruined my life. Back when I confronted him, he told me that he didn't want me to hate him. I don't hate him. I loathe him. Now, I would like to ask you something important. Whether a person has a lot of influence, some or none at all, these are crimes that are unforgivable and inexcusable. They can never be taken back. He was calculating. He preyed on me and sexually abused me. He is a monster and a danger to children. I am kindly asking you to send a powerful message that these crimes are never okay, no matter who a person is. I also want to bring up the letter that I wrote to you. In my letter, I explained why the defendant is not remorseful for his crimes. I described how he has publicly found humor in them and how he has used tactics to gain sympathy from the public. He could have easily ignored the people online who were mocking this case. Instead, he went out of his way to let them know that he thinks it's funny. And he can give me that look all he wants, he knows exactly what I'm talking about. The crimes that he committed against me are some kind of sick joke to him. My suffering is not for him to laugh at or his leverage to brag about becoming a good man now that he is a father. So today, if the defendant tries to tell you that he is remorseful, I am asking you to appreciate that actions speak louder than words. Since his arraignment and plea hearing, his actions have been loud and clear, and they have shown that he simply does not care, and does not have an ounce of remorse. I won't be surprised if he tries to manipulate everybody into believing that he's changed, but he can't fool me. If he is truly sorry for anything, he is sorry that he has finally been caught. I can assure you of that. He committed these crimes against me with pride, a defendant who clearly feels no remorse for his crimes deserves to be given the maximum sentence possible. I will never forget what he did to me. I idolized and looked up to him, and he took that and broke it in the most sickening way possible. He is the epitome of evil. I deserve better than to be used for his sick desires, and for my suffering to be used for his amusement. Jared Drake Bell is a pedophile, and that is his legacy. Thank you, Your Honor.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 connected to a certified crisis counselor.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.