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France

Designer Galliano faces French court for racist tirade

©

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2011-06-22

Haute couture bad boy John Galliano appears before a French court Wednesday to answer to charges related to anti-Semitic comments he made in a Paris bar. Dropped by Dior, the British designer is expected to blame drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 100 French and foreign journalists, as well as hordes of fashionistas and celebrity news hounds, gathered outside a Paris court on Wednesday, when British designer John Galliano will stand before a judge to answer to charges of launching an anti-semitic tirade in a trendy Parisian bar. Many will be searching the face of haute couture’s bad boy for signs of remorse and improved health after three months of detox, while others will be waiting to hear if he makes a public apology.

According to those close to the notoriously shy designer, Galliano is anxious about his day in court. But according to FRANCE 24’s fashion correspondent Jessica Michault, “He doesn’t really realise the gravity of the situation. He’s sort of in his little bubble.”

A compromising video

The incident in question occurred on February 24, when a couple, Géraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgité, were seated on the patio of La Perle, a café-bar in the upscale Marais district near Galliano’s residence. According to a report written by Yves Beddouk, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Galliano called Bloch an “ugly, disgusting whore” with a “dirty Jew-face”. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs say, the bar staff refused to intervene, “because of Mr. Galliano’s fame and his friendly ties” with the owner of the bar.

We will prove John Galliano is open-minded, says lawyer

After having read about this altercation in the press, another woman came forward to file a complaint accusing Galliano of insulting her in the same bar several months earlier, in October 2010. According to the woman, Galliano mocked her physical appearance and hurled racially-charged insults at her in English. And on February 28, the British tabloid The Sun published on its website a video showing a visibly drunk Galliano insulting people seated at the next table and declaring his love for Hitler.

With the designer’s reputation severely tarnished, Dior fired him, after working as the fashion house’s artistic director as well as on his own LVMH-backed brand, and removed his name from its website.

According to Aurélien Hamelle, Galliano’s lawyer, there is “doubt over what was said” in the altercations, because Galliano was intoxicated and cannot remember the incident. He continues to believe that the words attribute to him “in no way reflect what he thinks”, Hamelle said, adding that “he is neither anti-Semitic nor racist”. As for the filmed evidence published on the Web site of The Sun, Galliano’s lawyer told Agence France-Presse that his client was “shocked” by what he saw.

Letter of recommendation signed by Anna Wintour

Both the prosecution and the defence have been busy building their cases. Hamelle has three witnesses to vouch for Galliano: two women who were sitting next to the couple pressing charges and a waiter working at the bar on the night in question, all of whom say they did not hear the alleged insults. The defence will also submit letters attesting to Galliano’s character, apparently including one written by fashion heavyweight Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue magazine.

Meanwhile, the prosecution will bring in two Italian witnesses who are expected to corroborate the account of the woman who said that Galliano similarly insulted her in October last year, at the same bar.

Asked about the defence’s tactic of using letters of recommendation as evidence of Galliano’s integrity, prosecutor Beddouk said: “Just because he has Jewish people [backing him up] does not mean he is not anti-semitic… He’s a genius in the world of fashion and a loser in his private life.”

‘A half-hearted defence’

Galliano’s defence will essentially use the designer’s addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs to explain his behaviour. His lawyer told Agence France-Presse that Galliano is undergoing treatment for the addictions and is “planning his professional future” for after the trial.

According to Beddouk, the defence will present documentation showing that Galliano completed three months of rehab abroad and underwent a medical exam on June 16 at a Parisian hospital. The medical report is said to confirm that Galliano was being treated for an addiction to alcohol and two stress-related medications, Valium and Noctamid.

The arguments to be presented by the defence are “half-hearted”, said Beddouk, who is asking for a payment of “one euro in damages” for his client, Géraldine Bloch. “Suffice it to say that my client did not file suit for money, but for symbolic reparations,” he said.

If convicted, Galliano could face a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,000). In cases of hate speech, the French judicial system generally imposes fines, and not prison sentences.

Date created : 2011-06-22

  • FRANCE

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  • FRANCE

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    Dior fires Galliano for anti-Semitic remarks

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