Former Chicago record label CEO Michael Johnston, who along with his wife is accused of setting up hidden cameras to capture nude images of their nanny in a civil lawsuit, appeared in court Wednesday morning in connection with the case.
According to officials, Johnston, who is also facing criminal charges in the matter, requested to travel to Florida to be with his family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and was granted that request.
Johnston is facing a felony charge of making an illegal recording in a bathroom, and the case will go before a Cook County grand jury next month.
Earlier this week, Chicago-based Audiotree announced that Johnston had been removed from his position as CEO of the record label and music venue management company.
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The company oversees operations of several local music venues in Chicago, including Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern.
“As of Saturday, Nov. 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.”
The decision comes shortly after Johnston, along with his wife Kelly Halverson, were named in a lawsuit alleging that they had set up hidden cameras in their home to capture nude images of their nanny. Johnston also faces a felony charge in the matter, according to prosecutors.
Halverson has not been criminally charged in the case.
An attorney representing Johnston in the criminal matter says his client "takes these allegations seriously, and will continue to work through the legal process."
Two women have filed a civil lawsuit. Both are recent graduates of DePaul University, and both have sought to remain anonymous in court filings.
Jane Doe was hired in Dec. 2019 as a home manager, child caretaker and personal assistant to the couple, while Julie Doe also worked as a nanny in the couple's close circle of friends, according to legal documents.
Gail Eisenberg, who is representing the pair in the case, says that Jane Doe, on her second week of working for the couple, was asked to organize boxes in their bedroom closets. She discovered one of the boxes was filled with sex toys and other sexual paraphernalia, according to court records.
“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," Eisenberg said.
One month later, in January 2020, the couple asked Jane and Julie to house-sit for them while they were out of town on vacation. According to their civil suit, the wife “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 the couple secretly videotaped them undressed and bathing using spy cameras for their own sexual gratification, according to the women’s lawsuit.
The next month, according to the civil suit, the couple once again asked Jane to house-sit for them over night. Jane alleges that as she was about to undress, she discovered a hidden camera disguised as a picture frame aimed at the bathtub. Court records say Jane searched the house and found two more hidden cameras, one in a bathroom disguised as an iPhone dock charger and another in the bedroom she was using.
Eisenberg said that there is even video of Johnston setting up the camera, “these were motion sensor cameras, so any person who would have entered those rooms would have turned on the camera.”
Johnston appeared in court on Nov. 10 on the charges in the case. Halverson has not been criminally charged, but was named in the civil lawsuit.
In a written statement, Jane Doe told NBC 5 Investigates, “My life is forever changed because of what they did to me … I hope that by speaking out about this I can empower other survivors to do the same.”
Attorney Eisenberg said her clients will always wonder whether someone with a camera is watching no matter where they are.