SALT LAKE CITY — The man who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford has been charged with aggravated child sexual abuse and is free on $75,000 bail, according to documents filed in 3rd District Court.
Sterling Van Wagenen, 71, of Woodland Hills, Utah, posted the cash bail on Monday during his first court appearance on the charge, which alleges that he touched a female relative beneath her underwear twice between 2013 and 2015 when the girl was between the ages of 7 and 9, according to court documents.
Aggravated sexual abuse of a child is a first-degree felony punishable by 15 years to life in prison.
Van Wagenen's attorney, Steven Shapiro, declined to comment on the case when reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon.
Van Wagenen co-produced the Academy Award-winning movie "The Trip to Bountiful," worked as a film professor at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah and worked on films and TV projects for BYUtv, where he was the director of content from 2007-2010, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
According to court documents, the Division of Child and Family Services reported to Sandy Police that the girl had told her parents about the alleged abuse. She said one of the incidents happened while she sat on his lap on a stairway to her family's basement in Salt Lake County. The second alleged incident happened in Utah County, according to court documents.
Sandy Police referred the case to the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office, which filed charges on Thursday.
A message left for the prosecutor was not immediately returned on Wednesday afternoon.9 comments on this story
Van Wagenen resigned last month from his teaching position at the University of Utah after reports surfaced of a 1993 previous incident regarding alleged sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy that resulted in no charges. The alleged victim in that case recorded Van Wagenen last year confessing and apologizing for touching him over his clothes. The victim said the touching happened underneath his clothes.
Van Wagenen appeared in court on Monday on the new charges and posted bail. Third District Court Judge Todd Shaughnessy ordered him to report to the Salt Lake County Jail to be booked and released.
Van Wagenen is scheduled to appear in court again on May 2 for a scheduling hearing.