Robert De Niro at closing arguments in civil trial

Robert De Niro attended Manhattan federal court for closing arguements in his civil trial.

Robert De Niro attended Manhattan federal court for closing arguements in his civil trial. Photo: AAP

Robert De Niro has looked on as a lawyer for a woman who worked for him for more than a decade urged a jury to award her millions of dollars for emotional distress and reputational harm because the actor discriminated and retaliated against her.

Lawyer Brent Hannafan argued on Graham Chase Robinson’s behalf in Manhattan federal court after De Niro’s lawyer, Richard Schoenstein, told jurors that Robinson was a disloyal employee who stole $US85,000 ($133,000) worth of airline miles and owed De Niro damages.

“This is a civil rights trial,” Hannafan said in his closing argument on Wednesday.

“Your verdict will have meaning when you return it, again, not just for Ms Robinson, but for all civil rights litigants.”

He urged jurors to award Robinson “significant damages” of at least seven figures and “possibly up to eight figures”, a request consistent with her $US12 million claim asserting gender discrimination and retaliation.

Schoenstein said De Niro, 80, was the victim of a woman who caused “drama and conflict” at his company and lashed out with a lawsuit when he did not meet her demands to continue paying her $US300,000 salary after she quit in April 2019 at the height of a feud with De Niro’s girlfriend.

Robinson, 41, worked for one of De Niro’s companies, Canal Productions, beginning in 2008 as a personal assistant for less than $US100,000 in salary.

By 2019, De Niro had agreed to pay her $US300,000 annually and elevated her title to vice-president of production and finance.

The Oscar-winning actor testified last week that her duties largely remained the same, though he boosted her title at her request.

Wednesday was the first time De Niro had been in court since he testified last week, when he admitted he had asked her to scratch his back and had used profanity, but he said he never did anything out of “disrespect or lewdness”.

He also said he never yelled at her, only to lean forward in the witness chair soon after and glare at her as he shouted: “Shame on you, Chase Robinson!”

When she testified, Robinson said she found it “creepy” and “disgusting” when De Niro told her that he liked the way she scratched his back when she suggested that he use a back scratching device instead.

Robinson said she quit after suffering an “emotion and mental breakdown” as she clashed with his new girlfriend over preparations for a townhouse for the couple.

Tiffany Chen, De Niro’s girlfriend, told De Niro in a series of emails that she thought Robinson was having “imaginary intimacy” with him and was a “mean, insecure, territorial girl” who “thinks she’s your wife”.

In his arguments, Schoenstein asked the jury to compensate De Niro for his legal claims, which allege breach of loyalty and fiduciary duty requirements.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations on Thursday.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.