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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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De Niro’s former assistant says she resigned after experiencing a nervous breakdown

The ex-assistant called her final months of employment with the actor "humiliating" in her testimony accusing him of harassment.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Robert De Niro’s former assistant continued her testimony Monday as she was pushed on the lack of written policies at the actor's company, how she spoke about other employees and her spending habits.

Graham Chase Robinson returned to the stand after her all-day testimony Friday in which she spoke about the “mental and emotional breakdown” she experienced around the time of her resignation from De Niro's Canal Productions and pointed to times in which De Niro would often yell at her or call her a “bitch.”

Robinson resigned in 2019 after working at Canal for 11 years. De Niro, who most recently starred in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” then filed a lawsuit through Canal that accused Robinson of abusing her company credit card and stealing frequent flyer miles for her own personal use.

Two months later, Robinson sued De Niro for harassment and gender discrimination.

Richard Carl Schoenstein, an attorney for Canal, pushed Robinson on Canal’s policies related to employee benefits and expenses.

One such policy allowed some Canal employees to be reimbursed for any unused vacation days.

According to Robinson, she only took one vacation day while employed at Canal, not including sick days and holidays.

“So you believed you were entitled to any day you were sick, any day the office was closed and 23 vacation days?” Schoenstein asked.

Robinson did not give a direct answer at first but eventually conceded that she received reimbursements for most of her vacation days in addition to taking sick days and being absent from the office on holidays.

Additionally, Canal accused Robinson of using so-called “work trips” to enjoy personal vacations while using the company card. Specifically, Canal said Robinson passed off a March 2018 trip to Los Angeles as a work trip despite going to attend a friend’s birthday party.

On this trip, Canal said, Robinson spent over $4,000 on a hotel stay, a rental car, Uber rides and dinners with friends at Nobu. Robinson denied these accusations in her testimony, stating the trip was to scout hotels for Toukie Smith, De Niro’s ex-girlfriend.

But, Robinson added, she did not end up scouting any hotels while on the trip.

In fall 2018, Robinson began working on the five-bedroom Manhattan townhouse that De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen were moving into.

In an effort to contest Chen’s testimony that Robinson came off “mean-spirited and bitter” from the start, Robinson said she did everything to make Chen comfortable including asking her what aspects of the townhouse she wanted to be involved in and exchanging phone numbers.

“I didn’t know what else to do to make her feel comfortable,” Robinson said. “I’m an employee and this is a business.”

By February 2019, Robinson said, she knew Chen no longer wanted her working in the townhouse. Additionally, Robinson was also frustrated by working with her.

In a March 2019 phone call Robinson recorded with Michael Tasch, De Niro’s lead accountant, she said Chen was “fucking nuts” and called her a “sociopath.”

Robinson testified that by the end of the month she had started trying to schedule a meeting with De Niro to discuss her job responsibilities and transition out of working at the townhouse.

“It’s not a heart attack conversation, it’s not about throwing in the towel — I just want to make sure everything runs smoothly,” Robinson wrote in a March 2019 email to De Niro asking to sit down and talk about her job responsibilities.

Robinson said the actor offered to schedule a meeting with her and Chen to discuss work moving forward.

Before that meeting could happen, though, Robinson said she met with De Niro on April 4, and he informed her Robinson’s assistant, Lulu White, would be taking over her responsibilities at the townhouse.

She added that during that conversation, De Niro yelled and “berated her.”

Robinson resigned on April 6, saying that she had not planned to when the day began. Throughout the day, she added, she felt “emotionally and physically stressed.”

“I couldn’t keep doing this to myself,” Robinson said.

She added that she had not been sleeping or eating and was having a breakdown.

Additionally, she said she didn’t like the way De Niro and Chen handled removing her from the townhouse project.

“I think the situation and the way that [De Niro] had handled it … it was humiliating to say the least,” Robinson said.

Robinson is expected to finish her testimony on Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman, a Donald Trump appointee, is presiding.

Follow @NikaSchoonover
Categories / Employment, Entertainment, Trials

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