CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Utah filmmaker pleads guilty again in second county

May 2, 2019, 2:22 PM

sundance filmmaker...

Sterling VanWagenen signs an agreement with his attorney, Steven Shapiro, as he pleads guilty during his initial appearance in American Fork on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Photo: Rick Egan, Salt Lake Tribune / Pool

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah filmmaker was in court again Thursday to plead guilty for a second time to sexually abusing a young girl.

Sterling Van Wagenen, one of the co-founders of the festival that would eventually become Sundance, pleaded guilty in a court in Utah County on Tuesday and then in Salt Lake County on Thursday.

“Today was a virtually identical situation as Tuesday’s; the only difference being this was an incident that occurred on this side of the county line. Same conduct, same alleged victim,” said Van Wagenen’s attorney, Steven Shapiro.

Court documents say the abuse happened in January 2014 in two locations.

Shapiro says his client has accepted his wrongdoing and gave up his rights to a trial, and that Van Wagenen wants to move forward without further harming the family or the young girl with what could have been months of court proceedings.

He is scheduled to be sentenced July 2nd in Utah county and July 9 in Salt Lake County. It’s expected they will be concurrent sentences.

In addition to co-founding the Sundance Film Festival, Van Wagenen taught at the University of Utah and BYU. The 71-year-old posted $75,000 bond and is in treatment and counseling.

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Utah filmmaker pleads guilty again in second county