Galliano tells court he lost it on booze, drugs

Fashion designer blames alcohol, drugs at anti-Semitism trial; accuser wants court decision published in 'Vogue'; Galliano faces 6-month jail sentence.

By REUTERS
June 22, 2011 20:19
3 minute read.
Fashion designer John Galliano.

John Galliano 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

PARIS - Fashion designer John Galliano told a Paris court on Wednesday that he was so out of control on drugs and alcohol he does not recall hurling anti-Semitic insults at strangers in a bar earlier this year.

Looking thinner than in his last public appearance, Galliano arrived in a hushed courtroom wearing long sandy hair, his trademark razor-thin mustache and leather trousers, prepared to defend himself against charges of anti-Semitic behavior.

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He stood as a judge read out charges against him and repeated statements he allegedly made in an incident in Paris on Feb. 24, including "dirty Jewish face", "fucking Asian bastard I will kill you", and "fucking ugly Jewish bitch".

Asked whether he remembered the insults, Galliano said: "I don't remember very well ... I have no recollection."

"I have a triple addiction," he added. "Alcohol, sleeping pills and Valium."

Galliano's career is in tatters. He was fired from fashion house Dior in March, after a video posted online showed him drunkenly telling a woman he loved Hitler and saying her parents might have been gassed in a Nazi death camp.

French police first questioned the British designer in February after a couple accused him of hurling racist abuse at them on the terrace of a cafe.

Magistrates are expected to arrive at a decision quickly in the trial, which pits Galliano, 50, against two accusers -- a woman who claimed not to have heard of him before their February encounter and another whose accusations refer back to events last October.

If found guilty, Galliano faces a six-month jail sentence and a fine of up to 22,000 euros ($31,517). Precedents in similar cases suggests that a more likely outcome is a smaller fine, a few thousand euros at most.

Designer tells court he drank 'cyclically'

Galliano, who has repeatedly apologized for his remarks on the online video clip, told the court he had started drinking "cyclically" in 2007 when business was booming.

He said professional pressure grew during the financial crisis as he signed licensing deals for his own brand, "John Galliano", with several new collections coming out to save the brand from failure.

"For every creative high I would crash and drinking would help me to escape," he said.

Asked why he did not admit to being drunk and on drugs to the police, he said: "I was in denial. I was still taking those pills and alcohol."

One of the plaintiffs, museum curator Geraldine Bloch, said she heard the word "Jewish" linked to another insult "at least 30 times" while sitting next to Galliano at the La Perle bar.

Witnesses including a waiter and another customer said they had not heard the word Jewish, according to statements read out by the court.

Bloch, who complained of harassment in the wake of her pressing charges, said she found this "surprising" given how loud the words were spoken. "There were variations, but the word Jewish kept coming back," she said.

Bloch's lawyer has said she will seek symbolic damages of 1 euro and publication of the court's decision in two fashion magazines, Elle and Vogue, and French daily Le Figaro.

Lawyer Yves Beddouk told Reuters his client was interested not in Galliano's money, but in getting him to acknowledge the alleged anti-Semitic tirade publicly and make a show of contrition which befits his reputation.

Galliano's lawyer Aurelien Hamelle has said he will call up a toxicology expert to testify that the designer -- triply addicted to alcohol, the sedative Valium and powerful sleeping pills -- would have been in a state of utter abandon.

Galliano left France shortly after he was fired from Dior receive treatment for substance abuse in the United States.


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