The now-removed owner of two popular North Side bars was charged Tuesday with two more counts of unlawfully videotaping women he hired to work in his Roscoe Village home.
Michael Johnston was president and CEO of Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and the venues’ parent organization, Audiotree, when prosecutors first charged him in November with illegally recording two other women at his home. The new charges stemmed from complaints police received from two of Johnston’s other former household workers who contacted investigators separately after hearing about the allegations. Johnston was removed from his corporate positions after the charges were filed, Audiotree said at the time.
Two women who recently graduated from DePaul University sued Johnston, 38, and his wife over the hidden camera allegations in October of 2020. 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 in November with one count of unauthorized videotaping. He has no previous arrests, Gnilka said.
The new allegations involve a former housekeeper and a woman who worked as a dog- and housesitter for Johnston, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said Tuesday. They both contacted Chicago police in December.
The housekeeper, 30, cleaned Johnston’s house once a week for about five years between 2015 and 2020. She was unaware of any interior surveillance cameras, said Murphy. CPD allegedly found footage of the woman cleaning the home on nine dates in November of 2019 and January 2020. She is fully clothed in all of the videos, Murphy continued.
He said the other woman, age 36, began working for Johnston in 2016. She stayed in the Johnston home as a housesitter for two days in November 2019, and police found three hidden camera videos of her fully naked in the bathroom, Murphy said.
Private defense attorney Matthew Madden reminded Judge Kelly McCarthy that the new allegations stem from the “same course of conduct” are not “new conduct.” He said Johnston now lives in Northfield with his wife and three children.
McCarthy agreed to release Johnston on his own recognizance, the same bail conditions he received in November.