Robert De Niro jury is sent out to decide whether star is sexist bully after ex-assistant Graham Chase Robinson sued him for $12M
- Graham Chase Robinson, 41, filed a lawsuit against Robert De Niro, 80, in October 2019 in which she accused him of gender discrimination
- The actor has denied her claims and counter-sued her for $6million, saying she misused company benefits by harvesting five million air miles before she left
- Jurors at Manhattan Federal Court have heard bombshell details about the feud between the pair during the high-profile trial which began on October 30
The jury in the trial between Robert De Niro and his former assistant has been sent to deliberate over whether he is liable to pay up to $12million in damages over gender discrimination.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, filed a lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor in October 2019 in which she claimed he made her do stereotypically female work, paid her less than male colleagues and made ‘creepy’ requests for her to scratch his back.
She alleged he called her a ‘b****’ two or three times during her employment and frequently berated her – which she described as ‘hurtful’ and ‘demeaning’.
De Niro, 80, has denied her claims and counter-sued her for $6million, saying she misused company benefits by harvesting five million air miles for her personal holidays just before she left.
Jurors at Manhattan Federal Court have heard bombshell details about her feud with the actor who testified in the trial, and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen, 64, during the high-profile case which began on October 30.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, filed a lawsuit against Robert De Niro in October 2019 in which she claimed he made her do stereotypically female work, paid her less than male colleagues and made ‘creepy’ requests for her to scratch his back
De Niro, 80, denied her claims and counter-sued her for $6million, saying she misused company benefits by taking five million air miles for her personal holidays just before she left
De Niro is pictured giving evidence in court last week. On October 31, his lawyers suggested the star’s request for back scratches were not sexist
Robinson began working for Canal in 2008, having started out as an executive assistant on a $75,000 salary, before rising to the role of vice president of production and finance on a $300,000 wage at the time of her departure in April 2019.
She told the court her role at the company involved dealing with personal matters for De Niro including items with his children and family, dealing with his kids’ schools and assisting him with medical care.
But said the job was so intense that she had trouble sleeping and eating due to the ‘24/7, 365 day’ role.
‘I haven’t had one good night of sleep in god knows how long, she said.
‘I have had so much stress and anxiety that I don’t eat. I lost a lot of weight.’
She broke down in tears while on the stand on November 3 as she recalled the ‘creepy’ and ‘disgusting’ moment he ordered her to scratch his back.
She claimed De Niro asked her to scratch his back three times in the past three years.
‘I mentioned there was a back scratcher he could use instead,’ she told the court.
‘He said ‘I prefer the way you do it’.’
‘It was creepy, just disgusting,’ she added before breaking down in tears.
Robinson also claimed she was called a ‘b****’ by De Niro on more than one occasion while she worked for him.
She said the first incident occurred when a fire broke out at his New York City townhouse and she was listed as an emergency contact with the security company.
‘Bob [De Niro] was really angry and he started berating me and said I was complaining and that he did not want to hear it.’ she said.
‘He hung up and called back, berating me more and said I was ‘acting like a little b****’ and hung up again.’
She recalled another incident in December 2017 in which Di Niro was allegedly furious because he could not find some Christmas presents in the office.
‘He was screaming about not being able to find some of the presents in the office,’ Robinson said.
‘He was cursing left and right. I was trying to sort it but he just said I was being a b****.
De Niro lost his temper as he testified in the trial on October 31. In a startling moment while on the stand, the Oscar-winning actor confronted Robinson and said before a stunned courtroom: ‘Shame on you, Chase Robinson! God da**it! I’m sorry.’
Robinson alleged her boss had different standards for the males and females who worked for him.
De Niro is pictured in Manhattan on November 3. The court case has proved hugely-embarrassing for the famous actor
Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen were concerned with Chase Robinson’s spending
By April 2019, Chen and De Niro were onto Robinson’s spending, demanding forensic breakdowns of how she spent company cash and firing others who they felt pandered to her
‘Female employees were expected to be on call 24/7 for Bob. He didn’t expect male employees to be on call for him,’ she claimed, adding that the Oscar-winner referred to his female assistants as ‘the girls’.
She said: ‘Male employees could not be available and Bob wouldn’t mind.’
Robinson asked to receive the same salary as fellow employee Dan Harvey who is the actor’s personal trainer and has worked with him since 1985.
But she alleged De Niro told her: ‘Chase you don’t have kids. Dan has a family to support.’
‘It made me so sad. It frustrated me, it angered me … I was really hurt by that comment,’ she told the court. ‘I gave this job my life. I didn’t have kids because I worked.’
But after a short exchange they agreed she would see her salary jump from $200,000 to $300,000.
De Niro’s defense attorney Richard Schoenstein cross-examined Robinson on the stand and asked her: ‘You thought you should be paid the same as someone who has been working with Mr De Niro since you were in pre-school?’
On Wednesday, the court also heard from De Niro’s longtime personal trainer Harvey, 63, who has also run lines with the actor ahead of filming for the past 40 years.
Under cross-examination from De Niro’s team, Harvey confirmed he was on a wage of $290,000 at the time Robinson left with her salary of $300,000.
Harvey said he has been a full-time trainer for De Niro since 1985, that he spent two to seven hours with the actor for around 330 days a year and had to travel with him to film locations around the world.
Robinson held a tissue to her face and appeared emotional on Tuesday as she told the court she was worried no one would believe her word against De Niro’s.
Her resignation email was shown to the jury and she told De Niro that she had been ‘loyal, protective, honest and beyond hard-working.’
‘I poured my heart and soul into this job and as a result other parts of my life and opportunities were put on hold. You always came first,’ she wrote.
It has been over three years since she left Canal Productions and in her testimony, she said she has applied to 638 jobs since but has not landed a single interview.
She revealed she suffers from depression, anxiety and insomnia and has to take medication to even leave the apartment she shares with her mother.
‘I’ve lost my life. I‘ve lost my career. I’ve lost my financial independence. I’ve lost everything,’ Robinson, who now sees a therapist, said.
On Tuesday, Robinson’s team’s psychiatrist Dr Robert Goldstein diagnosed her with generalized anxiety disorder linked to her employment at Canal.
The practicing psychiatrist said Robinson suffered from the ‘serious and often disabling psychological condition’ after evaluating her in January 2019, and reviewing more than three years worth of medical records.
He said she suffered with symptoms like insomnia and memory loss, and ‘experienced a good deal of psychological pain and emotional discomfort’ which began while she was employed by De Niro.
When asked what the trigger for this mental condition was, he said: ‘Her perceptions of being discriminated against and retaliated against on her job.’
But a psychiatrist hired by De Niro’s attorneys described Robinson as ‘narcissistic and paranoid’.
By July 2019, Robinson was making demands. She said they’d been agreed upon months earlier. Among her demands was $600,000 over two years
Graham Chase Robinson broke down in court as she described how former boss Robert DeNiro asked her to scratch his back, branding the request as ‘creepy’
De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen (pictured) dismissed Robinson as ‘obsessive, psychotic and dangerous’ in a fiery testimony last week, when jurors were shown a series of hostile messages between her, Robinson and De Niro
Dr Kimberly Resnick told jurors that she suffers from an ‘inflated sense of self-esteem’ and ‘sees harm where there isn’t’ – and that these traits skew her ‘perception of the world’.
Dr Resnick, who serves as chief of forensic psychiatry at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in New York, said she spent seven hours speaking with Robinson over Zoom and analyzed her medical records.
Under cross-examination by De Niro’s lawyers, Dr Resnick said she ‘identified there to be traits of narcissism, paranoia and grandiosity’ in Robinson’s personality – though she stopped short of saying she would diagnose her with any related disorders.
De Niro’s girlfriend Chen slammed the actor’s former assistant as ‘psychotic’ in a fiery testimony on November 2.
She took the stand to berate De Niro’s former staffer Graham Chase Robinson, who she claimed had an ‘imaginary intimacy’ with the Oscar winner.
Chen admitted she pressured De Niro to fire Robinson after their relationship soured over issues including catering on his private jet and renovations at their Manhattan townhouse.
Her testimony came after a number of hostile email and text exchanges between Chen, Robinson and De Niro were shown to the jury days before, including a 2am email from Chen to the actor saying: ‘If you keep her (Robinson) you and I will have problems’.
Chen’s hostility to Robinson was on full show in her testimony, which saw her compare the former assistant to the lead character of 1992 hit ‘Single White Female’.
This included Chen agreeing with a description of Robinson as ‘obsessive, psychotic and dangerous.’
Chen also appeared upset at having her intimate personal text exchanges revealed to the court.
Further texts from Chen appeared to note this disagreement, where she told the Oscar winner: ‘If you keep her you and I will eventually have problems because you have allowed her to become disrespectful to you and now she’s telling you what she will do and what her job is.’
Chen felt her behavior towards the couple was because she dreamed of being with the actor, adding: ‘I believed she lived her whole life as a fantasy.’
‘If her fantasies are going to infringe on my personal life… I’m going to make it difficult for her,’ she added. ‘She was attached to the control she thought she had in this dynamic.’
During her final months working for De Niro and as their relationship soured, Robinson secretly recorded more than 40 hours of phone conversations with she had with other employees.
Chen told De Niro he had ‘allowed her [Robinson] to become disrespectful’ and advocated he fire the assistant, texts revealed
De Niro departs federal court on October 30, 2023 in New York City
She admitted the recordings were ‘embarrassing’ and she ‘regrets’ calling Chen a ‘psycho’ and ‘drunk on power’ to other colleagues during the audio previously played to jurors.
On Tuesday, she defended her choice to make the covert recordings as a means catching out any witnesses who weren’t telling the truth – but De Niro’s lawyers used one phone call to expose an apparent lie of her own.
Robinson previously characterized De Niro as a boss who would fly off the handle and shout at her frequently.
But during cross-examination by De Niro’s lawyer, Richard Schoenstein on Tuesday, she was played a clip of her own audio recording showing she told a colleague in 2019 that ‘Bob has screamed at me before but not in the last four or five years’.
During the trial, Robinson also received a text message calling her a ‘disgusting little beast’ amid their fiery civil trial – and her lawyer believes it was sent by one of the De Niro’s children.
The message read: ‘You disgusting little beast. You have nothing better to do with your pathetic life than destroy an 80 year-old man’s life…
‘Hopefully you and your family will suffer as you have made others suffer.’
Robinson is seeking $12 million in damages for severe emotional distress and reputational harm.
Her lawsuit was quickly launched following an initial lawsuit by De Niro’s Canal Productions in August 2019, accusing her of improper spending.
She is also accused of spending tens of thousands more on personal items, food and travel and spending her days binge watching Netflix.
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