“A filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and produced an Oscar-winning movie in the mid-1980s pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexual abuse of a child,” the AP reports. “Sterling Van Wagenen, 71, entered the plea as part of an agreement that includes a sentence of six years to life. He plans to plead guilty to a second charge involving the same victim later this week, his attorney Steven Shapiro said.”
Van Wagenen, who was a producer on the Oscar-winning 1985 film “The Trip to Bountiful,” was charged with inappropriately touching a girl between the ages of 7 and 9 on two occasions between 2013 and 2015 in two northern Utah cities, the AP reports. He is due to be formally sentenced July 2.
“His acceptance of the plea deal was a surprise since he had just been charged earlier this month and it came during his first court appearance,” the report notes. “Shapiro said his client decided to waive his right to other hearings to resolve the case quickly and avoid further harm to his family.”
Van Wagenen co-founded a Utah film festival that came to be known as Sundance Film Festival. He was also the Sundance Institute’s founding executive director, the report notes, but has not been involved with the organization for more than two decades.