Sterling Van Wagenen, one of the co-founders of the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival, has been sentenced to six years to life in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a child.
Wagenen, who was a producer of the Oscar-winning film The Trip to Bountiful, was convicted for inappropriately touching a young girl on two occasions in 2013 and 2015 when she was aged seven and nine. During the court proceedings Wagenen offered no apologies for his actions when offered a chance to speak. However, he did give the following statement.
“It’s clear that any kind of apology I can make is meaningless at this point. 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.”
As part of his plea deal for the trial, Wagenen had pleaded guilty to the two counts of child sex abuse, both involving the same victim.
At the end of the trial, the sentencing judge expressed a desire that the parole board keep the disgraced 72-year-old filmmaker imprisoned beyond the six-years minimum of his sentence.
Wagenen had famously co-founded Sundance along with Oscar-winning actor/director Robert Redford, but had not been with the Sundance institute for more than 20 years.
In response to the news surrounding one of its co-founders, the Sundance Institute came out with the following remarks in regards to Wagenen.
“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 a Sundance Institute spokesperson in a publicly released statement. “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.”
However, Wagenen’s current trial isn’t the first recorded offense of his. When he had previously served as as professor at the University of Utah, Wagenen had resigned after a recording of him admitting to molesting a child was released, according to the Daily Utah Chronicle. ~Paolo Maquiraya