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Sundance Co-Founder Accused of Touching Girl

Sterling Van Wagenen, 71, faces count of felony sexual abuse of a child
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 12, 2019 8:29 AM CDT
   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A Utah filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford and produced an Oscar-winning movie in the mid-1980s has been charged with sexual abuse of a young girl. Sterling Van Wagenen, 71, is accused of inappropriately touching a girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015, according to a probable cause statement filed with the charges on April 4. The alleged abuse occurred in two northern Utah cities when the girl was between the ages of 7 and 9, online court records show. The case was reported to police by child protective services after the girl told her parents about the alleged abuse. Van Wagenen, who posted $75,000 bail, is scheduled to be in court on May 2; he faces one count of felony sexual abuse of a child, reports the AP.

Van Wagenen produced the 1985 film, The Trip to Bountiful, a story of an elderly woman who longs to return to her home that earned the late actress Geraldine Page an Oscar for her starring performance. He co-founded the Utah film festival that came to be known as Sundance and was the Sundance Institute's founding executive director, according to his biography page on the University of Utah website. He was a part-time instructor there until his Feb. 15 resignation, which came after a man came forward to accuse Van Wagenen of molesting him as a boy in 1993. No charges have been filed in that case, which was made public by a website that serves as a watchdog for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Van Wagenen's affiliation with Sundance ended in 1993 when he left the advisory board.

(Read more Sundance Film Festival stories.)

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