Who is Michael Johnston? Audiotree CEO fired for recording nannies undressing at home
Record label booted CEO Michael Johnston after arrest for recording nannies, who claim they were asked to use specific areas of the house with cameras
A record label CEO is facing both legal woes, as well as professional ones after being booted out over his arrest. Michael Johnston, who co-founded Audiotree was arrested on November 9 for allegedly recording two nannies without their consent. The two women filed a suit claiming that Johnston and his wife had set up multiple cameras in their Chicago home disguised as regular household objects, which they discovered only after being asked to house-sit a second time.
Johnston isn't the only person to be caught for such an incident. In mid-October, an Amazon driver in Massachusetts was arrested for dressing as a girl and filming women at a shopping center restroom. Earlier in April, the NYPD was sued by a woman who claimed a cop filmed her during their one-night stand. In December 2020, a perverted stepdad was caught filming his daughter bathing for years, leading to a stint in jail.
Johnston is currently looking at a possible spell in prison, as well as at least $270,000 in damages per woman. He was initially sued by the women back in September but was arrested only on November 9. Just a week later, Audiotree decided to part ways with him.
Who is Michael Johnston?
The 38-year-old founded the indie music label Audiotree in 2011 with close friend Adam Thurston. The duo grew up together in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before founding the firm in Chicago a decade ago. Since his arrest, Johnson has taken down all his social media profiles, so we couldn't find more information about where he studied and worked prior to founding Audiotree. In 2015, he bought the local venue Schubas and Lincoln Hall, with help from his father William Johnston.
According to one report, the senior Johnston is a wealthy investor in the city, but little else could be found about him as well. Johnston's mother is Ronda Stryker, who currently runs the medical equipment company Stryker Corp, which was founded by her grandfather. Johnston reportedly serves on the board of the Stryker Johnston Foundation, which is working to eliminate "intergenerational poverty in Kalamazoo County."
It is believed Johnston and his wife Kelly Halverson own an 8,000-square-foot home in Roscoe Village and have two children in need of a nanny. That led them to hire the two nannies, who were fresh graduates from DePaul University and roommates.
Cameras placed on ordinary objects
One woman, identified as Jane Doe was hired in December 2019, around the same time as the other known as Julie. The two were asked to house-sit first in January 2020, when the Johnston's went on vacation. They were encouraged to use the master bedroom and the jacuzzi, and "help themselves" to alcohol. "While they were house-sitting, and without their knowledge or consent, the Johnstons’ secretly videotaped Julie and Jane undressed and bathing, using spy cameras they had hidden in the bathroom and elsewhere," their lawsuit claims.
In February 2020, when they were asked to house sit again, the duo found multiple cameras disguised as "ordinary household objects", including one in a picture frame looking right at the bathtub. The suit also claims that Jane was asked to organize a box filled with sex toys, which she claims "does think it was part of a grooming process." The Johnstons no longer appear to be living in their Roscoe Village home and have instead moved to the suburbs, from where Chicago PD found the videos of the women.
He appeared before a court on November 10 on a felony charge and is now out on bail. Two days later, Audiotree announced they were booting Johnston from his role. So far, Kelly has not been charged. The women are suing Johnston for invasion of privacy, emotional distress, and sexual harassment.