One of the co-founders of the Sundance Film Festival has been sentenced to six years to life in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a child.
Sterling Van Wagenen was convicted for touching a young girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015 when she was 7 and 9 years old. The sentencing judge said in court that he hoped the parole board will keep the 72-year-old Van Wagenen in prison longer than the six-years minimum.
In addition to co-founding Sundance with Robert Redford, Van Wagenen was a filmmaker who produced The Trip To Bountiful, which won Geraldine Page an Academy Award. He has not been with the Sundance Institute for more than 20 years.
Van Wagenen declined to apologize when he spoke in court.
“It’s clear that any kind of apology I can make is meaningless at this point,” Van Wagenen said. “So I am not even going to attempt one. I want you all to know I feel the consequences of what I’ve done. I feel them deeply.”
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He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of sexual abuse of a child, both involving the same victim, as part of a plea deal.
The Sundance Institute earlier this year denounced Van Wagenen’s behavior.
“Recent reports in the press have made us aware of allegations of sexual abuse by Sterling Van Wagenen, who played a role in founding both the Festival and the Institute,” said the Sundance Institute spokesperson in a statement sent to Deadline. “He has no current connection to either entity, and hasn’t since he left our Utah Advisory Board in 1993. Sundance Institute categorically denounces his behavior as described in recent reports, and we stand in solidarity with those whose brave truth-telling shines light on abusive behavior.”
Van Wagenen also directed the 1992 film Alan & Naomi. According to the Daily Utah Chronicle, he resigned as a professor at the University of Utah after a recording was released of him admitting to molesting a minor in 1993.
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