Robert De Niro’s legal dispute with former assistant Graham Chase Robinson began playing out in federal court on Monday, putting accusations of sexism, theft and personal jealousy on trial for all to see.
While celebrity-employee lawsuits almost always avoid a court trial, De Niro and Robinson will now see a jury decide if the actor discriminated against Robinson because of her gender or if Robinson surreptitiously funneled funds from De Niro’s business for personal expenses.
The messy case draws from mountains of personal texts and internal emails from De Niro’s company Canal Productions, which The Hollywood Reporter reviewed in detail.
Robinson’s gender discrimination claim includes accusations that De Niro maintained a toxic work environment, paying her far below male employees and relegating her to domestic tasks like running errands, decorating his townhouse and even buttoning his shirt, despite Robinson eventually rising to an executive position at Canal.
Robert De Niro promotes his film "Killers of the Flower Moon" at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2023.
The suit also alleges that De Niro’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, pressured the actor to fire Robinson, speculating that Robinson was in love with him. Text message evidence appears to support that Chen did indeed make those demands.
Robinson eventually resigned from her position in April 2019.
Meanwhile, De Niro’s lawyers say they discovered that Robinson was using Canal’s funds to pay for personal expenses like dry cleaning, dog-sitting and flowers after conducting a review of her company records post-resignation. They also claim she fraudulently swiped 7 million frequent-flyer miles from Canal’s accounts and refused to return them after leaving the job.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman decided the case could go to a jury in May, but excluded Robinson’s pay discrimination claims from the scope of the trial due to lack of specific evidence.
De Niro’s and Robinson’s lawyers have been going back and forth with each other since 2019.
According to THR, the actor, Chen and attorney Tom Harvey are all expected to testify. Opening statements will begin after jury selection on Monday.
Read The Hollywood Reporter’s full account here.