Filmmaker sentenced again in second sexual abuse case

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Sterling Van Wagenen

FILE – In this April 30, 2019 file photo Sterling Van Wagenen, left, pleads guilty during his initial appearance in American Fork, Utah. Wagenen, who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and produced a movie whose lead actress won an Oscar in the mid-1980s has been sentenced on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, to at least six years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune, via AP, Pool, File)

WEST JORDAN, Utah (AP) — 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 on a sexual abuse charge for the second time in as many weeks.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Sterling Van Wagenen avoided time being added to the six years to life in prison he was sentenced to last week.

But Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman said that if the deal wasn’t in place, she would have lengthened his prison sentence by running the sentences consecutively rather than at the same time.

“I’m going to follow the agreement that everybody’s come to,” the judge said, noting Van Wagenen has shown he’s willing to complete sex offender treatment, according to the Deseret News.

The sentence means he will serve at least six years, but a parole board will decide the ultimate length of his sentence, which could be as long as life in prison.

He said nothing at Tuesday’s hearing, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. He has previously said he feels the consequences of his actions deeply.

Van Wagenen, 72, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse of a child in two separate cases.

Prosecutors said he abused the same girl once in Utah County and once in Salt Lake County, between 2013 and 2015.

He co-founded a film festival with Robert Redford that became the Sundance Film Festival but hasn’t been with the organization for over 20 years.

He was a producer on 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 Academy Award.

The charges came after a man accused Van Wagenen of molesting him as a boy in 1993. No charges were 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, widely known as the Mormon church.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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