Graham Chase Robinson, 41, held a tissue to her face and appeared emotional as she said she also worried no one would believe her word against the Oscar-winning actor’s during their $12 million lawsuit on Tuesday.
Jurors at Manhattan Federal Court heard more details about her feud with De Niro, 80, who testified earlier in the trial, and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen, 64, who Robinson previously called a ‘psycho’.
During cross-examination from her own lawyer Brent Hannafan, Robinson said she ‘feared’ the potential repercussions of speaking about alleged discrimination she faced in her $300,000 role as De Niro’s vice president of production and finance.
Graham Chase Robinson is pictured outside Manhattan Federal Court Monday. During Tuesday’s hearing, she claimed she was too scared to report her former boss Robert De Niro’s alleged abuse over fears he’d destroy her career
When Hannafan asked why she didn’t make any internal complaints about gender discrimination at Canal Productions before resigning and launching civil action in the fall of 2019, Robinson said: ‘I really feared what would happen if I did that.
‘I feared that making a formal complaint was going to be loading a gun which was going to be then pointed at me.
‘I feared for my reputation. I was really scared.’
Robinson claims De Niro made her do stereotypically female work while paying her less than male colleagues, while making ‘creepy’ requests for her to scratch his back.
The Taxi Driver star has denied her claims and is counter-suing for $6 million, saying Robinson misused company benefits by harvesting five million air miles for her personal holidays just before she left, after binge-watching Netflix during work hours.
De Niro is pictured giving evidence in court last week. On Tuesday, his lawyer’s suggested the star’s request for back scratches were not sexist
The court heard previously that Robinson requested a hefty compensation package from De Niro after she resigned in April 2019 – including $600,000 severance pay, five recommendation letters and a press release about her departure.
On Tuesday, Robinson said her request for the press release was an attempt to protect her future in the entertainment industry.
‘I was worried about my reputation,’ she said.
‘Bob said my career was in his hands. I was worried he could go through with his threats of giving me a bad recommendation.’
‘I felt the way I left Canal, I could have been disparaged by Tiffany (Chen),’ Robinson added.
‘I wanted to make sure that it was clear that I wasn’t fired.’
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.
De Niro leaves court last Thursday. Robinson is suing him for $12 million over claims he was a sexist, retaliatory boss. He denies the allegations and is counter-suing her for $6 million
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.
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’.
‘The reason you made those recordings was to catch people if they lied,’ Schoenstein posited.
‘It was one of the reasons,’ Robinson conceded.
‘That’s all,’ Schoenstein said.
The former assistant claimed that in the audio recording she had been referring to a ‘particular type of screaming’ De Niro allegedly did on behalf of someone else, like Chen.
Robinson also 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.
‘I don’t know what to say other than I wish I hadn’t said those things,’ she said.
‘But I also wish I hadn’t been put in the position of having a mental breakdown.’
Robinson said she made the recordings because she felt she ‘wasn’t going to be believed’.
‘A big fear of mine was that Bob would be believed because he’s Robert De Niro.
‘A part of me is really happy that I did this (launched the lawsuit), but it has come at huge cost to me and my friendships.
‘I didn’t want it to be a “he said, she said”. I wanted proof of what happened.’
De Niro is pictured in Manhattan on November 3. The court case has proved hugely-embarrassing for the famous actor
Jurors also heard from expert witness Dr Robert L Goldstein, who diagnosed Robinson 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.’
Dr Goldstein said Robinson would require long term psychotherapy combined with medication to ‘try to improve her level of function’.
On Monday, Chase Robinson’s lawyers said she’d received a text over the weekend branding her a ‘dirty little beast’ for targeting the 80 year-old star.
They said the message came from an unknown number – but that a feature on Chase Robinson’s iPhone suggested that it was sent from a phone belonging to one of De Niro’s children.
The trial continues, with jurors due to hear evidence from Robinson’s mother later on Tuesday.