Former LDS filmmaker Sterling Van Wagenen gets second prison sentence for abuse of child

Sterling Van Wagenen appeared in 3rd District Court on July 9, 2019. Photo: Court Pool

WEST JORDAN, Utah, July 9, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Former LDS filmmaker Sterling Van Wagenen was back in court Tuesday, the second time this month, again to be sentenced for sexually assaulting a young girl.

Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman, 3rd District Court, handed down the same sentence Van Wagenen got on July 2, his 72nd birthday, from a judge in Utah County. The sentences — six months to life in prison — will run concurrently, meaning he could be out of prison in as little as six years.

The guilty pleas were part of a plea deal involving the same victim, who was assaulted both in Salt Lake and Utah counties, a probable cause statement says. The girl said that Van Wagenen sexually abused her between 2013 and 2015, when she was between 7 and 9 years old.

The victim said that Van Wagenen rubbed her body under her clothing on both occasions, one in her Salt Lake County home and one in Utah County.

Van Wagenen, who cofounded the Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford, is best known for producing “A Trip to Bountiful” (1985). In 2018, he executive produced “Jane and Emma,” about the relationship between Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jane Manning James, a black member of the early church.

Van Wagenen made many other LDS-faith related films and videos, include “The Work and The Glory,” 2 and 3, in 2005 and 2006; “That Promised Day: The Coming Forth of the LDS Scriptures” (video, 2010); “Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God”  (2010 documentary series); and a 2014 episode of BYUtv’s “Granite Flats.”

Van Wagenen formerly taught at Brigham Young University, where he served as content director for BYUtv between 2007 and 2010.

In addition, Van Wagenen taught at the University of Utah, quitting earlier this year after reports surfaced that he had touched a 13-year-old boy inappropriately in 1993.

No charges were filed in that case, and Van Wagenen recently apologized, saying he was sorry for touching the victim over his clothes. The victim has said Van Wagenen touched him under his clothing.

Sterling Van Wagenen appeared in 3rd District Court on July 9, 2019. Photo: Court Pool

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