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Inside Robert De Niro's complex trial with his former assistant Graham Chase Robinson

The Godfather actor took the stand on October 30

Robert de Niro and his former assistant leaving court
Faye James
Faye JamesSenior Editor
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Robert De Niro faced the court and his former assistant, Graham Chase Robinson, on October 30, 2023, in a trial that has raised questions about gender discrimination and workplace ethics.

What is Robert De Niro’s case about?

After a decade of service at Canal Productions, Graham ended her tenure, which led Robert and the company to file a lawsuit for $6 million, accusing her of misusing company funds and indulging in personal pleasures, like binge-watching Netflix, on the job. 

In a dramatic twist, Graham countered with gender discrimination accusations, insisting Robert subjected her to sexist comments and paid her less than her male colleagues.

Graham Chase Robinson departs federal court © David Dee Delgado/Getty
Graham Chase Robinson departs federal court

Robert De Niro’s trial claims

At the heart of the trial are the narratives from both parties. Robert's testimony focused on the extent of Graham's role within Canal Productions. 

“She did anything and everything within the confines of her job," he stated, pushing back against any suggestion of Graham overstepping into his personal life. 

Despite the tension, Robert conceded that Graham excelled in certain tasks, saying: "The cards were one of the few things she was very good at."

Graham's attorney, Andrew Macurdy, probed Robert on the variety of tasks assigned to Graham, which included personal errands and chores for Robert’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen. 

In these instances, Robert was unwavering, explaining that he and Tiffany  "work together."

 Robert De Niro departs federal court © David Dee Delgado/Getty
Robert De Niro departs federal court

Graham Chase Robinson’s counter-lawsuit

Graham’s allegations paint a different picture, claiming Robert engaged in behavior that belittled and demeaned her. 

"De Niro directed sexist comments and conduct at her," her attorneys from Sanford Heisler Sharp released in a statement.

The defense hinged on a series of claims that Robert's girlfriend, Tiffany, "falsely accused Robinson of being in love with De Niro." 

Graham’s legal team posited that these accusations led to retaliatory actions from Robert, which they argue forced her into resignation.

Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen arrive to the screening of "Kiss the Future" during the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival at OKX Theater in New York City on June 7, 2023© Getty Images
Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen

The evidence and allegations

The trial promises to delve into the communications between Robert, Graham, and Tiffany, including one text message where Robert labeled Graham "a nasty b----." Another text from Tiffany mentioned Graham's "demented imaginary intimacy."

Addressing the jury, Brent Hannafan from Graham's legal team expressed confidence in the clarity of the evidence, asserting: "We believe when all the testimony has been heard, the jury will agree with us that De Niro discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Robinson.”

Robert's lawyer, Rich Schoenstein, maintains that the conflict "had nothing to do with gender, everything to do with conduct."

 Tiffany Chen recently gave birth to her first child with partner Robert De Niro. © CBS Photo Archive
Tiffany Chen claimed Robert's assistant was in love with him

The emails and texts

Throughout the proceedings, the court scrutinized various emails and texts, some of which Robert now admits may shed light on Graham's alleged feelings for him. “I was shocked by that, but now looking back, she might’ve been onto something," he acknowledged on the stand.

Graham's constant communication, even during off-hours, was put under the microscope. Robert argued against any notion of impropriety: "You’re making it out like I controlled her.” He emphasized his principle of trust, stressing, "I only value work if it is done right, or else it reflects poorly on me."

Contentious interactions

In one revealing exchange, Robert was questioned about requests he made for back-scratching, to which he responded, "Yeah, fine, I berated her," admitting to the act but also downplaying it as infrequent and respectful.

The contested use of SkyMiles also became a focal point, with Robert expressing his intention for the miles: “I wanted those SkyMiles to be able to be used by my kids.”

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