Michael Johnston, cofounder of Chicago-based label Audiotree and owner of venues Schubas and Lincoln Hall, has been accused of using hidden cameras in his home to videotape and photograph nude images of his children’s nanny, NBC 5 Chicago reports.
The nanny and another woman have filed a civil suit against Johnston and his wife Kelly Halverson. The women — named as Jane Doe and Julie Doe in the court filing — are friends and recent graduates from DePaul University.
Per the women’s lawyer Gail Eisenberg, Jane worked for the couple beginning in December 2019 as a home manager, child caretaker, and personal assistant for the couple. Julie was also employed as a nanny for the couple’s friends.
Eisenberg told the station that Jane claims early in her employment that she was asked to organize the couple’s bedroom closets, where she discovered a box full of sex toys, which Eisenberg said in hindsight her client thought was “part of a grooming process.” A month later, Jane and Julie were asked to house-sit. According to the suit, Halverson “encouraged Julie and Jane to use the Jacuzzi bathtub in the master bathroom” and to “help themselves to the Johnstons’ wine and beer while they were away.” The women allege that the couple then used secret spy cameras to videotape them.
The next month, they were asked to house-sit again, but as Jane was undressing she alleges she found a hidden camera, according to the suit. She searched the house and claims she found two additional cameras, one in a bathroom disguised as an iPhone dock charger and another in a bedroom she was using.
A lawyer for Johnston did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
On Nov. 10, Johnston appeared in bond court on a felony charge of making an unauthorized recording in a bathroom. Halverson has not been charged. Johnston’s attorney Damon Cheronis told the station in a statement that Johnston “takes these allegations seriously and will continue to work through the appropriate legal process.”
“My life is forever changed because of what they did to me,” Jane Doe said in a statement via her attorney. “I hope that by speaking out about this I can empower other survivors to do the same.”
Johnston and Adam Thurston cofounded Audiotree in 2011. The label and platform features live music sessions and concerts. Following news of the allegations and civil suit, the company released a statement announcing that Johnston has been “removed as President & CEO of Audiotree, Audiotree Presents, Lincoln Hall, Schubas, and Tied House.” The company added that he is “no longer a part of the Audiotree team” and that cofounder Thurston would assume the CEO role.
Our official statement regarding Michael Johnston is below pic.twitter.com/yN1gG86SZL
— Audiotree (@audiotreemusic) November 16, 2021