Utah assistant A.G. placed on leave, investigated after lawsuit alleges he took part in hazing ritual as women’s soccer coach

Tony LeBlanc will not handle cases while attorney general’s office investigators look into a lawsuit filed against him and Westminster College.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune and courtesy photo Lento Law Group) A former Westminster student and soccer player, Naomi Kehl, is suing the school for harassment she says she faced on the team and from the coach with a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. The coach has since been put on administrative leave from his position as an assistant attorney general for Utah.

An assistant attorney general for Utah has been placed on administrative leave while internal investigators look into whether he participated in an alleged sports hazing ritual at Westminster College, where he also coaches the women’s soccer team.

The Utah attorney general’s office said the decision to remove Tony LeBlanc from handling cases for the time being was “non-disciplinary.” And he will be paid during that time, a spokesperson confirmed.

His leave came after LeBlanc was named in a lawsuit earlier this month filed by a former soccer player at Westminster, a small private school in Salt Lake City.

Naomi Kehl said when she was a freshman on the team in April 2021, she and other new players were forced to take part in an “initiation ritual” where they had to answer sexual questions in front of LeBlanc. And LeBlanc, according to Kehl, piped in with his own follow-up questions and laughed at the players’ answers.

Kehl said some of the players didn’t want to participate but felt they had to — or they would face repercussions, including being benched for games, if they didn’t. In her lawsuit, she called the experience sexual harassment and said the coach had an obligation to not let the ritual happen.

Instead, Kehl said, he encouraged it. And when she and her father went to complain about it to administrators, LeBlanc then allegedly retaliated against her and benched her for four games.

Kehl has since left the school and quit soccer.

In the lawsuit, Kehl argues that it’s not appropriate for the coach to continue in his position. She calls for his termination, as well as for $1 million in damages.

LeBlanc is a Westminster alumnus and played for the men’s soccer team, according to his biography on the school’s website. He has coached the women’s soccer team for 16 seasons — the entire time it has existed at the college.

Westminster College declined to comment to The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday when asked if the school had taken any action regarding LeBlanc’s role as soccer coach.

In a statement, the school said: “Westminster College is a private employer. As such, we do not release personal employment information.”

As of Friday, LeBlanc was still listed as the team’s head coach on the school’s athletics website.

According to his LinkedIn profile, LeBlanc has worked in the Utah attorney general’s office since May 2010. A spokesperson there said there is no timeline for how long the internal investigation into the allegations will take.