Attorney Richard Schoenstein described the final day of the trial as the ‘end of a movie’ in his final appeal to jurors on Wednesday, as his movie star client De Niro turned up at the courthouse to watch the closing scene.
De Niro wore a face covering and sat directly behind his former assistant Robinson, each flanked by their team of attorneys on the front benches.
‘Welcome to the end of the movie… ’employee finds job stressful but can never walk away’’ Schoenstein scoffed.
De Niro is accused of discriminating against his former assistant, including forcing her to scratch his back, in a $12 million lawsuit set to come to a close on Thursday
The actor’s former assistant Graham Chase Robinson launched her gender discrimination lawsuit four years ago, after De Niro’s company Canal Productions initially sued her alleging misuse of company funds
Schoenstein described how Robinson allegedly pursued a ‘cycle’ of planning to leave Canal on several occasions during her last few years up to her final departure in 2019 – despite ‘whopping’ salary increases up to a final figure of $300,000.
‘Miss Robinson resigns and wants to be paid two years of salary, but when she can’t get that, she ends up bringing claims in court,’ Schoenstein said.
‘This movie is almost over, but here’s the surprise part – you get to decide how it ends.’
He accused her of ‘sweeping every last air mile from the company account into her own’ in the weeks before she left.
Schoenstein added that her gender discrimination claim ‘comes down to back scratches and the B word’ De Niro occasionally cursed at her.
‘Having somebody use the B word in frustration a handful of times over the years is not a big deal, especially when the evidence shows you engage in the same kind of language yourself,’ the attorney said.
‘I know all too well that victims of discrimination don’t speak up right away.
‘But you have to consider the totality of the circumstances.’
Schoenstein argued that Robinson merely experienced a clash of personalities with De Niro’s ‘colorful’ girlfriend Chen – and claimed the ‘idea of gender discrimination did not come up until lawyers got involved.’
De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen (pictured together) has been at the center of the trial’s proceedings, as it was suggested in closing arguments that Robinson’s allegations amount to a clash of personalities with the actor’s ‘colorful’ partner
De Niro seen in a court room sketch as he testified in the trial last week
‘Gender discrimination is unfortunately still alive and well in this country, but we have got to be able to distinguish between real gender discrimination and what happened here,’ he told the jury.
Brent Hannafan, representing Robinson, contested in his closing statement that she was scared to leave De Niro’s company because of his formidable influence.
‘She was afraid that without a recommendation from one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry, what chance would she have of getting a job?’ he said.
‘It turns out her fears were accurate. She hasn’t had a job in four years.’
Hannafan added that De Niro permitted use of company air miles on personal trips, and that the Taxi Driver star said ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t recall’ 140 times during his testimony.
On the question of gender discrimination, Hannafan asked jurors to consider whether De Niro would have called Robinson a bitch if she were a man.
‘Would he have asked her to scratch his back, would Tiffany Chen have been jealous of her, and would she have described her as “very white single female” if she was a man?’ Hannafan added.
‘I ask that you find in her favor and award her significant damages due to the significant harm she has suffered.
‘We believe significant damages would be seven figures, possibly eight figures, but we leave it to you and your discretion to come to that conclusion.’
He repeated Robinson’s words on the witness stand about her reflections on her time as De Niro’s top assistant.
‘I lost my life, I lost my career, I have lost my independence, I have lost everything,’ she said previously.
The jury – five women and three men – will receive directions from the Judge on Thursday morning before being sent out to decide how the trial ends.
De Niro, pictured in January 2020, has grown noticeably irate through the trial’s proceedings, and even berated his accuser from the witness stand last week
Doctor Kimberly Resnick took the stand on Wednesday, and said she believed Robinson to be suffering from ‘narcissism and paranoia’
Robinson is suing the Oscar-winning actor for $12 million for alleged gender discrimination, claiming he made her do stereotypically female work while paying her less than male colleagues, and made ‘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.
The closing arguments came after a psychiatrist hired by De Niro’s attorneys testified that she believes Robinson is ‘narcissistic and paranoid’.
Dr Kimberly Resnick told jurors that Robinson suffers from an ‘inflated sense of self-esteem’ and ‘sees harm where there isn’t’ – and that these traits skew her ‘perception of the world’.
On Tuesday, Robinson’s team’s psychiatrist Dr. Goldstein diagnosed her 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.
But Resnick challenged this analysis, and said she ‘identified there to be traits of narcissism, paranoia and grandiosity’ in Robinson’s personality – though she stopped short of saying she would diagnose her with any related disorders.
Dr. Resnick, who serves as chief of forensic psychiatry at Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in NY, said she spent seven hours speaking with Robinson over Zoom and analyzed her medical records.
On Wednesday, Dr. Resnick told the court that Robinson’s ‘perception’ was that she was being ‘targeted’ by people in her workplace, and ‘blacklisted’ by new employers after she left Canal.
The doctor said she believed this ‘perception’ – which she described as ‘spin’ at one point – was causing Robinson’s ’emotional distress’ rather than her alleged treatment in the workplace.
Challenging Robinson’s generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis, Dr. Resnick added: ‘I observed some symptoms of anxiety in Miss Robinson, but I did not find it reached clinical diagnosis of a psychological disorder’.
She added that she felt Robinson’s back problems and her gerd – a reflux condition – were what was causing her sleepless nights while she worked for the star, rather than an anxiety disorder.