Michael Johnston mugshot

The one-time CEO and president Chicago music venues Schubas and Lincoln Hall has pled guilty to criminal charges of secretly videotaping three women in his home.

Michael Johnston copped a plea on October 11 and was sentenced to probation and community service.

Johnston was dismissed from his role at the Chicago clubs and live music venues after his arrest last November on charges he lured his children’s nanny and her friend to use a jacuzzi in his Roscoe Village home while secretly recording them. One of the victims found a hidden spycam disguised as a picture frame and positioned to record the bathtub. Two other cameras were also found.

A civil suit by the former nanny suggests that Johnston began grooming his family’s new nanny shortly after hiring her, asking her to organize a closet containing a box of sex toys. Later Johnston and his wife would encourage the nanny and her friend to use the family’s jacuzzi while the Johnstons were out of town, according to the civil suit initially filed by two of his victims.

Footage from the spy cameras confiscated by Chicago police showed Johnston setting up the camera by standing in the field of vision and reviewing footage on his cellphone.

The civil suit, Jane Doe and Julie Doe vs. Michael Johnston and Kelly Johnston, was filed in September 2021 is still pending. Johnston’s wife was not criminally charged in this indictment.

Additional victims came forward in March of last year when a former housekeeper and housesitter were also revealed to have been recorded in Johnston’s home. The Cook County State’s Attorney told NBC’s local Chicago affiliate that the former housekeeper was recorded fully clothed, while the housesitter was filmed nude in the Johnstons’ bathroom.

Johnston is the son of Kalamazoo billionaires William Johnston and Ronda Stryker. Ronda Stryker is a wealthy heiress to the Stryker Corporation, a Michigan-based medical technology firm, while William Johnston is chairman of wealth management company Greenleaf Trust. William Johnston was involved in purchasing Schubas with his son in 2015.

Johnston was co-founder of Lincoln Hall, founded a label and audio platform called Audiotree in 2011 and formerly operated Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“My intention is to provide Schubas and Lincoln Hall with more resources,” Johnston told former Chicago Tribune columnist Greg Kot when he bought the venues in 2015.

The Chicago police and Cook County State Attorney’s Office have not made allegations that the premises of Schubas, Lincoln Hall or the restaurant Tied House were used by Johnston for surreptitiously recording patrons.

Regardless, it’s a little surprising to see this story being reported as a criminal case about a guy with an interesting day job, rather than the story of a rich creep who seems to have bought his way into the Chicago music scene.


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