A filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and produced a movie whose lead actress won an Oscar in the mid-1980s was sentenced Tuesday to at least six years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child.
The judge who delivered the sentence of six years to life said that he hopes the parole board will keep 72-year-old Sterling Van Wagenen in prison longer than the minimum.
Judge Robert Griffin commended the young victim for reporting what happened.
Prosecutors say Van Wagenen touched a young girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015.
“You did the right thing and you’re not responsible for anything that happened and anything that will happen,” said Griffin during the hearing south of Salt Lake City. “You’re a brave young lady.”
The victim, whose name The Associated Press is withholding because she is a victim of sexual abuse, read a letter blasting Van Wagenen for lying and being a coward.
“I strongly believe the only thing you were actually torn up about is the fact that you got caught,” said the girl, now a teen.
Van Wagenen declined to apologize when he spoke to the victim and her family.
“It’s clear that any kind of apology I can make is meaningless at this point,” Van Wagenen said. “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.”
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of sexual abuse of a child, both involving the same victim, as part of a plea deal.
Van Wagenen co-founded a Utah film festival that came to be known as Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford and was the Sundance Institute’s founding executive director but hasn’t been with the organization for more than 20 years.