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Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder Charged With Child Sexual Abuse

Sterling Van Wagenen, who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival, has been charged with felony aggravated sexual abuse by the Salt Lake City District Attorney’s office.

The Sundance Institute issued a statement denouncing Van Wagenen and said he has not been connected to the festival since 1993.

“Recent reports in the press have made us aware of allegations of sexual abuse by Sterling Van Wagenen, who played a role in founding both the Festival and the Institute,” the institute said. “He has no current connection to either entity, and hasn’t since he left our Utah Advisory Board in 1993. Sundance Institute categorically denounces his behavior as described in recent reports, and we stand in solidarity with those whose brave truth-telling shines light on abusive behavior.”

Van Wagenen was charged April 2 with accused of sexually abusing a child between the start of 2013 when the child was seven years old through the end of 2015, according to court documents cited by the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The court documents said the girl allegedly told her parents that Van Wagenen had inappropriately touched her twice. Van Wagenen posted $75,000 in bail on April 2.

Van Wagenen had resigned as a film professor in March from the University of Utah after allegedly admitting in a recording to molesting a minor in 1993, according to The Daily Utah Chronicle. The recording was released to the public by the Truth and Transparency Foundation, which operates the MormonLeaks platform for whistleblowers within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Van Wagenen co-founded Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford in 1978 as as the Utah/US Film Festival when Van Wagenen was head of Redford’s production company. The festival officially became the Sundance Film Festival in 1991. Van Wagenen produced the 1985 drama “The Trip to Bountiful,” for which Geraldine Page won an Academy Award for best actress.

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