An owner of two of the North Side’s premier music venues and bars is facing criminal charges after a pair of women accused him of using hidden cameras to secretly record them when they worked as nannies and housesat his family’s Roscoe Village home.
Michael Johnston, 38, was removed from his role as president and CEO of Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and the venues’ parent organization, Audiotree, as of November 12, the company said. A November 11 email from CWBChicago to Johnston’s corporate account went unanswered.
Two women who recently graduated from DePaul University sued Johnston and his wife over the hidden camera allegations in October of last year. But prosecutors did not file criminal charges until November 11, and then only against Michael Johnston.
Assistant State’s Attorney John Gnilka said one of the women discovered a hidden camera in a picture frame in Johnston’s master bath while housesitting on February 14, 2020. The woman had become suspicious of the frame because it housed a stock photo, Gnilka said.
After discovering the camera, she called the second alleged victim who went to Johnston’s home and helped her search for other devices, Gnilka continued. The women allegedly found camera-equipped phone docking stations in the master bath and the guest room where the first woman planned to sleep.
The women reviewed the contents of the devices’ memory cards and found video files, including footage of them discovering the cameras and footage of Johnston setting up and aiming the cameras, Gnilka said.
Both women immediately filed reports with CPD, but “it appears there was no further investigation by the police,” Gnilka said during Johnston’s bond court hearing. They called the police again on February 16, 2020, and the first woman also contacted a civil attorney, according to Gnilka.
CPD inspected copies of the devices’ SD cards and allegedly found additional footage of the women in various states of undress at Johnston’s home on separate dates in January 2020.
Prosecutors charged Johnston with one count of unauthorized videotaping. He has no previous arrests, Gnilka said.
Private defense attorney Damon Cheronis said Johnston and his wife are expecting their third child. CPD records show Johnston turned himself in at Area 3 Police Headquarters on November 10.
Judge Maryam Ahmad released him on his own recognizance.