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Drake & Josh Star Drake Bell Changes Plea to Guilty in Child Endangerment Case

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Former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted endangering of children and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

What We Know:

  • Bell, 34, was arrested on these charges in early June, while in Ohio. His charges come from various internet exchanges from 2017, between Bell and a 15-year-old Canadian teen. The chats between Bell and the minor were “sexual in nature” and the pair had been in contact for several years. The teen attended Bell’s December 2017 Cleveland concert and went to a nightclub with him, where he allegedly “violated his duty of care and, in doing so, created a risk of harm to the victim.” He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, was released on a $2,500 bond, and was asked to submit DNA.
  • The former actor appeared virtually in court on Wednesday and changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Ian N. Friedman, Bell’s attorney, stated that “all questions will be answered at sentencing, including why Mr. Bell chose to enter today’s plea.”
  • In August 2020, Bell’s former girlfriend Melissa Lingafelt posted a TikTok video that accused Bell of physical and verbal abuse. Bell started dating Lingafelt in 2006 and the couple broke up 2 years later. Lingafelt was 16-years old when they started dating and she moved in with him, while she pursued a singing career. In the viral video, she claims the verbal abuse started about a year into the relationship and then led to the physical.

“It then turned to physical — hitting, throwing, everything. At the pinnacle of it, he drug me down the stairs of our house on Los Feliz. My face hit every step on the way down. I have photos of this,” said Lingafelt.

  • Lingafelt, 30, also brought up messages that she received from others that alleged Bell of having sex with a 15-year-old when he was 20. She posted on Instagram that many of her friends were aware of the abuse she endured while dating Bell and that she didn’t make the video to receive attention for abuse. Her wish is that others who Bell has abused will feel comfortable to come forward because she knows “for a fact he has hundreds of victims.”
  • Bell has denied the allegations from Lingafelt and said that they were together over a decade ago. He did state that they both called each other “terrible names” when they were going through their breakup. According to Bell, the exes were in contact in 2019, when Lingafelt reached out to him for financial support while going through a hard time, and he ended up helping her out.
  • After the release of Lingafelt’s claims, reports of Bell living in Mexico and going by Drake Campana, which means Drake “Bell,” came to light. His active social media handles are still @drakebell, however, his display name is not and his pages mostly promote his new music ventures. Bell had been living in the country for close to a year, but many people believe he moved there to get away from Lingafelt’s allegations. Bell was said to be seeking legal options against Lingafelt, but no word on if he has.
  • The attempted child endangerment charge will give Bell a fourth-degree felony on his record. This charge can sentence someone up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Bell’s second charge is a first-degree misdemeanor and can sentence him up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Bell was informed by Judge Timothy McCormick that he doesn’t have to do the prison sentences, but if he does then he has to do a “discretionary period of three years post-release control after he’s released.”

Bell’s sentencing is set for July 12th and the judge will hear the victim’s impact statement at that time if she chooses to provide one.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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Crime

R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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