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Galliano judged in anti-Semitism trial

September 08, 2011

Fashion designer John Galliano arrives at a police station in Paris, in this file photo dated Monday, February 28. Former Dior designer John Galliano will appear in court on Wednesday June 22 on charges that he hurled racist anti-Semitic comments at people at a Paris cafe, allegations that shocked the fashion world and cost Galliano his job.- AP Photo

PARIS: Fashion icon John Galliano will learn Thursday whether he will be convicted of hurling anti-Semitic abuse at bar patrons in Paris in a career-breaking outburst he has blamed on drink and drugs.

Six months after he was sacked as the superstar chief designer at French fashion house Dior, the flamboyant 50-year-old Briton faces a fine or even a prison term over the reported incidents last winter.

Once known for strutting onto the catwalk to steal the limelight at the end of his own shows, Galliano has chosen to avoid exposure on the last day of his trial, staying away and allowing his lawyers to hear the verdict.

But, while the hearing itself will be less of a media circus than his last court appearance, the entire fashion world is waiting to known if the fallen star will be condemned as a bigot or allowed to rebuild a reputation.

One of the most celebrated designers of his generation, Galliano faces up to six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,000) if convicted – although prosecutors asked the judges to apply only a 10,000 euro fine.

Taking the stand at his one-day trial in July, Galliano apologised for his conduct.

Galliano insists he is not an anti-Semite but admits he can not remember the evenings of October 8, 2010 and February 24, 2011 – blaming a “triple addiction” to drink, sleeping pills and painkillers for his behaviour.

According to several witnesses, on those nights the designer subjected fellow patrons of the La Perle cafe in Paris' fashionable Marais district to streams of foul-mouthed anti-Jewish and anti-Asian abuse.

He allegedly hurled insults and racial slurs at a witness – after mocking her “cheap boots” and insulting her figure.

Video footage of a third incident, posted online, shows Galliano declaring “I love Hitler” and telling a couple at the next table: “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be **** gassed.”

Prosecutor Anne de Fontette accepted during the trial that Galliano “is not an ideologue of anti-Jewish or anti-Asian racism.”

But, in a remark likely to have stung the couturier she branded the remarks “everyday racism and anti-Semitism, that of car parks and supermarkets, which is pitiful and disgusting.”

The hearing is due to start at Paris' main criminal court at 1130 GMT, with the verdict coming shortly afterwards.

Christian Dior, which has taken its time finding a successor to Galliano, has firmly distanced itself from the designer and declined to comment ahead of the verdict.

For last March's ready-to-wear collections, Dior tasked Galliano's longtime right-hand man Bill Gaytten to oversee a show inspired by everything from early 1980s Paris nightlife to the architect Frank Gehry.

But with the Spring-Summer 2012 fashion season kicking off this month, Dior was reportedly poised to announce a successor – with America's hottest designer, the kilt-wearing, tattooed Marc Jacobs, tipped for the job.

Since 1997, the 48-year-old New Yorker has held the helm of Louis Vuitton, the flagship fashion brand of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) luxury giant, which is owned in turn by Groupe Christian Dior.