MANHATTAN (CN) — In federal court on Friday Robert De Niro’s former assistant painted a picture of her work habits and relationship with De Niro that sharply contrasted testimony from the past few days portraying her as mean-spirited and difficult to work with.
Graham Chase Robinson took the stand after the actor, who most recently starred in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” took the stand in Manhattan and accused his former assistant of stealing airline miles and abusing her company spending account.
Robinson resigned in 2019 after working for De Niro for 11 years. The “Taxi Driver” actor then filed a lawsuit through his company Canal Productions that claimed Robinson overused her company credit card by purchasing groceries, Uber rides and hotel stays and stole money from the company in the form of unused vacation days.
Two months later, Robinson sued De Niro for harassment and gender discrimination.
Robinson say she hasn't been able to find work since De Niro filed his lawsuit and suffered a “mental and emotional breakdown.”
Since she left Canal, Robinson has applied to 638 jobs and hasn’t gotten a single interview, she testified.
“I lost my career, I lost my financial independence, I lost everything,” she said during Friday's proceedings in front of U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman, a Donald Trump appointee.
In the years leading up to her resignation, though, Robinson said she couldn’t take it anymore.
It was in 2017 that Robinson first brought up wanting to transition out of Canal Productions, she said, at which point she had been working for De Niro for 9 years and had risen from executive assistant to director of production.
According to Robinson, after she was promoted to that spot in 2011, she began working more directly with De Niro on his production needs, including scouting hotels for upcoming film projects, meeting with the production team and setting up hair and makeup tests.
By the end of 2017 she had received another title change, to vice president of production and finance. By the time Robinson resigned in 2019 she earned an annual salary of $300,000.
During those final years, from 2017 until her resignation, Robinson says De Niro would yell at her often, called her a “bitch” on multiple occasions and two or three times asked her to scratch his back. When she suggested he use a backscratcher, he responded, “I like the way you do it,” she testified.
“It was creepy,” Robinson said.
She also recounted an incident in 2017 when De Niro called her, frustrated that he couldn't find Christmas presents the office had left at his house.
De Niro was “swearing left and right" on the phone, Robinson said, and when she asked him what presents he was looking for he said she was “being a bitch.”
“It’s incredibly difficult to hear that from your boss when you’re trying to do the right thing,” Robinson said on the stand.
What also made the job difficult was being “on-call,” Robinson said; she was always in contact with De Niro, even on weekends and holidays.
“In the mornings when I would go into the bathroom to shower, I would bring my phone in with me in case he called,” Robinson said during her testimony.
In December of 2018, Robinson told De Niro that she wanted to resign. In response, she said, he got “very angry.”
“At one point, I broke into tears and had to go to the other room to compose myself,” Robinson said.
Robinson sought to counter testimony by De Niro's girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, who painted Robinson as "mean-spirited" and territorial in fall 2018, while working on the five-bedroom Manhattan townhouse that De Niro and Chen were moving into.
While Chen said she wanted Robinson taken off the project because of her behavior, Robinson testified that she didn't want to work on the townhouse and preferred production work. Working on the home had left her feeling “overworked” and “disrespected,” Robinson said.
In April 2019 Robinson resigned.
“I had hit my breaking point,” Robinson said. “I couldn’t do it anymore.”
She also addressed accusations that she overused her company credit card and stole frequent flyer miles from Canal’s American Express account. De Niro had allowed Robinson to expense Ubers and taxis since 2008, she said, so she could be constantly available to him. And in 2015, instead of giving her a raise, he allowed her full access to Canal’s frequent flyer miles account with Delta Airlines.
Over the course of her employment, Robinson added, she received a variety of perks including $2,000 a month toward her apartment in Los Angeles; birthday and holiday gifts from De Niro, including a Rolex watch for her thirtieth birthday; and a higher allowance for meal reimbursements during work hours.
Robinson will continue to testify on Monday. She is expected to remain on the stand for most of the day.Follow @NikaSchoonover
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