Entertainment

Record label CEO is fired after he and his wife are accused of recording two nannies naked


Michael Johnston, 38, was arrested and charged with recording two nannies without their consent. They have also sued him

The head of a Chicago-based record label has been ousted after he allegedly recorded two nannies in his home without their consent, going so far as to hide a camera in a picture frame and aim it at one of their bathtubs.

Michael Johnston, 38, was arrested on November 9 on a felony charge of making an unauthorized video recording in a bathroom. 

He and his wife, Kelly, are also being sued by the two victims, a pair of young women who were encouraged to housesit and specifically use the recorded areas. Kelly hasn’t been charged with a crime as of Tuesday.

Johnson is the co-founder of indie label Audiotree, which announced Monday that it had fired Johnston as president and CEO. 

His next court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The young women sued Johnston and his wife Kelly back in September, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Chicago Sun Times.  

One of them, identified only as Jane Doe, was hired to work as a home manager, child caretaker and personal assistant in December 2019. The other, identified as Jill, was a nanny for the Johnstons’ close friends, but knew them since 2019.

The two women are roommates and recent graduates of DePaul University. 

Kelly Johnston asked Jane to organize boxes in her bedroom closet, one of which contained ‘sex toys and other sexual paraphernalia’ and made her very uncomfortable, the lawsuit says.

‘She did find some explicit objects. At the time, she kind of put it out of her mind but in hindsight does think it was part of a grooming process,’ said Gail Eisenberg, the women’s lawyer.

The Johnstons then asked the pair to housesit while they were on vacation in January 2020, openly encouraging them to use the master bedroom and the Jacuzzi in the master bathroom, the women claim.

Audiotree, a record label that runs two venues in Chicago, announced that it has severed all ties with Johnston, its co-founder, after his arrest for allegedly recording two nannies

Audiotree, a record label that runs two venues in Chicago, announced that it has severed all ties with Johnston, its co-founder, after his arrest for allegedly recording two nannies

The lawsuit also states the Johnstons told them to ‘help themselves’ to the wine and beer in the house. 

‘While they were house-sitting, and without their knowledge or consent, the Johnstons’ secretly video-taped Julie and Jane undressed and bathing, using spy cameras they had hidden in the bathroom and elsewhere,’ the lawsuit claims  

But it wasn’t until a month later, after they were asked to stay over again, that the two women discovered the cameras. 

On February 14, 2020, Jane was about to undress for a bath when she found a hidden camera disguised as a picture frame and pointing right at the bathtub. 

She and Jill then found ‘multiple’ other cameras in the house dressed up to look like ‘ordinary household objects.’

The lawsuit says the cameras were not obviously-placed security cameras and that they were different from the childcare cameras the couple use to monitor the kids’ rooms and play areas. 

One of the cameras, which were motion activated, captured Michael positioning the camera, standing in the bathtub, and ‘reviewing the stream on a cell phone to ensure that the bathtub area would be filmed while the Johnston family was out of town and Jane and Julie were house-sitting,’ the lawsuit states.

Audiotree, founded in 2011, records and publishes live music performances. Above, a performance by the group the Canadian band Peach Pit posted in 2017

Audiotree, founded in 2011, records and publishes live music performances. Above, a performance by the group the Canadian band Peach Pit posted in 2017

Michael Johnston co-founded Audiotree in 2011 with longtime friend Adam Thurston, according to the Chicago Reader. The company records and publishes live music performances and operates two venues in Chicago, Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall.

The label has published live performances by acts like Glass Animals, Mitski, Peach Pit, Soccer Mommy and Lucy Dacus. 

Johnston’s mother, Ronda Stryker, is worth $7.2 billion, according to Forbes. She owns 6 percent of the medical equipment company Stryker Corp., which was founded by her grandfather Homer Stryker.

Johnston was arrested last week and released a day layer, according to police records. It is unclear if he was released on bail. 

Audiotree also manages venues in Chicago, including Lincoln Hall, above. The company says Johnston is 'no longer a part of the Audiotree team'

Audiotree also manages venues in Chicago, including Lincoln Hall, above. The company says Johnston is ‘no longer a part of the Audiotree team’

His next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

On Monday, Audiotree announced it was distancing itself from Johnston entirely.

‘As of Saturday, November 12, Johnson is no longer a part of the Audiotree team,’ the company said. ‘We respectfully ask for patience as we navigate this challenging time.’

Michael was arrested in Lake View on November 9 and released from custody the next morning, according to the Sun Times. His wife Kelly has not been charged with a crime. 

The two nannies say the couple was ‘acting in concert to obtain nude video footage’ of them and ‘grooming’ them for ‘future sexual activities.’

They’re suing them for invasion of privacy, emotional distress and sexual harassment. 

As part of the lawsuit, they’re asking for at least $275,000 in damages each. They’re also asking the Johnstons to return all copies of recorded footage.

The Johnstons lived in a home in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago that they purchased for $2.6 million, according to WMAQ. The station says that Johnston listed his current address as a mansion in the suburbs. 

‘These women are extremely brave,’ said Eisenberg, their attorney.

‘This was their first job out of college and they right away learned that the world is not always there to protect them.’



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