NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who served as actor Robert De Niro’s chief personal assistant for over a decade began testifying at a trial against him on Thursday, citing his angry outburst at her during his testimony two days earlier as an example of his discriminatory mistreatment of her.
Graham Chase Robinson began her turn on the witness stand late in the day in Manhattan federal court as a jury hears evidence related to civil claims De Niro and Robinson have made against each other. De Niro, referenced mostly as “Bob” in court, has not returned to court since his testimony concluded Tuesday.
Robinson sued the two-time Oscar winner for gender discrimination and retaliation, seeking $12 million in damages. De Niro sued her for breach of loyalty and fiduciary duty, seeking $6 million and saying she stole 5 million air mile points from an account his children sometimes use when he had only expected her to take 1 million or 2 million.
On Tuesday the actor, angry at claims casting him as abusive and sexist, flashed his temper as he scolded Robinson, shouting, “Shame on you, Chase Robinson!” He quickly apologized.
Asked Thursday by her lawyer how common it was for De Niro to lash out angrily, Robinson remided the jury of that outburst.
“He yelled at me two days ago,” Robinson said.
She testified for about a half hour and was expected to spend all day Friday on the witness stand.
She followed testimony from Tiffany Chen, De Niro’s girlfriend, who had repeaded clashes with Robinson in 2019 as Robinson worked on a newly purchased townhouse where the couple planned to reside, precipitating Robinson’s resignation from one of De Niro’s companies, Canal Productions.
Robinson, 41, had worked there since 2008 as her title changed from executive assistant to vice president of production and finance and her salary rose from roughly $75,000 to $300,000. De Niro testified that he granted the title change at Robinson’s request but her job duties didn’t change.
Chen told De Niro in a series of emails shown to the jury that she thought Robinson was having “imaginary intimacy” with him and was a “mean, insecure, territorial girl” who “thinks she’s your wife” and “wants to be the lady of the house.”
Questioned about the emails, Chen did not back down, saying, “She’s crazy.”
Seeking to counter Chen’s suggestions that Robinson wished for a romantic relationship with De Niro, a lawyer asked Robinson shortly after she began testifying if she was attracted to him. She said no, and also denied ever wanting to live with, marry or have a child with the actor.
Robinson also testified that she was expected to answer what became known as the “bat phone” at any hour when De Niro called and he would aggressively inquire about it if she did not.
She denied previous testimony by De Niro that he only called her during “civilized hours.” Robinson said they talked by phone five to 10 times a day when she worked for him, with the first call usually taking place between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and the last generally between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
She said he was so demanding about her being available that she always carried her phone when she went to the restroom and avoided areas without cell service.
Robinson said De Niro would call her even if she told him she was not available for a period of time, such as when she accompanied her mother to the emergency room or when she attended her grandmother’s funeral.
Once when she took a friend’s daughter out for her 21st birthday, Robinson recalled, De Niro called her later that evening and asked her to bring him a martini from the restaurant.
She said she met him downstairs to give him the drink — “He was in his pajamas and slippers” — and he called her again later that night, at 1 a.m.