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Sterling Van Wagenen ordered to prison again for abusing young girl a 2nd time

Sterling Van Wagenen ordered to prison again for abusing young girl a 2nd time

(Leah Hogsten, Pool)


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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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WEST JORDAN — Sterling Van Wagenen, a founder of the Sundance Film Festival, has been ordered to a second prison term of six years to life for sexually abusing a girl when she was less than 10 years old.

The judge's order Tuesday follows an identical sentence he began serving a week ago for touching the child inappropriately at a different time in Utah County.

After reading statements from the victim and her parents, 3rd District Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman told a shackled Van Wagenen she would honor prosecutors' recommendation for the sentences to run at the same time, part of the terms of his plea deal.

"I'm going to follow the agreement that everybody's come to," the judge said, noting Van Wagenen has demonstrated that he is amenable to sex offender treatment. But if not for the deal, she said, she would not have allowed the sentences to run concurrently and would have stacked them instead.

The 72-year-old Van Wagenen declined to speak at the sentencing hearing. He originally faced 15 years to life for each count. He appeared in a white prison uniform and showed little emotion as the judge read his sentence.

Van Wagenen, a longtime filmmaker for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, co-founded the Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford. He worked with Sundance until 1993 and later went on to teach at BYU, where he was director of content for BYUtv from 2007-10. He resigned from a teaching position at the University of Utah earlier this year.

He pleaded guilty about two months ago to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony. Prosecutors alleged he abused the same girl at his home in Woodland Hills, Utah County, between 2013 and 2015, when she was between 7 and 9 years old. Another time, he touched her inappropriately as she sat on his lap on a stairway to her family's basement in Salt Lake County at another point during those same years.

The girl came forward after a years-old allegation that he abused a childhood friend of his son surfaced earlier this year. Sean Escobar was 13 when he said Van Wagenen touched him inappropriately during a sleepover in 1993, according to police reports. Escobar recorded Van Wagenen apologizing for the incident in a recording publicized in February.

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