Sundance Film Fest Co-founder Pleads Guilty In Child Sex Abuse Case

Apr 30, 2019, 12:34 PM

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – A Utah filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing a young girl.

Sterling Van Wagenen, 71, of Woodland Hills, was charged in Utah County with a first-degree felony of aggravated sexual abuse of a child after prosecutors alleged he abused the girl twice over the course of two years.

The abuse reportedly happened in American Fork and West Jordan and involved a girl who was 7 – 9 years old at the time.

RELATED: Sundance Film Festival Co-founder Charged With Sex Abuse

Van Wagenen faces six years to life and waived his right to a preliminary hearing and speedy trial.

He will appear in court Thursday in Salt Lake County, where he’s charged for the incident that happened in West Jordan.

Following court, Van Wagenen’s defense attorney Steven Shapiro said this could have been a year and half of legal proceedings that he was entitled to, but his client has admitted to his wrongdoing and wants to move forward and not further harm his family.

“He took his first opportunity to acknowledge, to admit, to the conduct,” Shapiro said. “(He waived) his rights to challenge the evidence or put the victim through the ordeal of testifying in court …”

Van Wagenen has been out on bail and was ordered to have no direct contact with the victim or the victim’s family. Shapiro said his client is in treatment, and he is due back in Utah County on July 2.

RELATED: New Allegations Surface Against Sundance Co-Founder.

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Sundance Film Fest Co-founder Pleads Guilty In Child Sex Abuse Case