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By Henry Samuel
22 June 2011
John Galliano, the disgraced British fashion designer, will insist he lost all reason after taking antidepressants “like candy” as he stands trial today for hurling anti-Semitic abuse at customers in a Paris café.
The 50-year-old, who was fired as creative director of fashion giant Dior in March, insists that a triple addiction to Valium, alcohol and sleeping pills made him “ill”.
Paris prosecutors will, by contrast, present Mr Galliano as a chronic bigot whose hate-filled prejudices came to the fore when he was drunk.
Anti-Semitism is a criminal offence in France and the former “enfant terrible” of the fashion world faces a six months jail spell, as well as a £21,000 fine if found guilty of casting “public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity” at three people.
Timeline of the John Galliano scandal
Mr Galliano, who once commanded the world’s catwalks, can expect a huge media scrum as he walks into the 17th Chamber of the Paris Correctional Court.
In February he is said to have called Geraldine Bloch, a museum curator, a “dirty Jew” and her boyfriend, receptionist Philippe Virgitti, an “Asian bastard” as they sipped cocktails in La Perle, a bar next door to his Paris flat.
An unnamed 47-year-old French woman has also accused him of inflicting a similar verbal tirade in the same bar last October.
All three witnesses are expected to give evidence in person in court.
In pictures: The many faces of John Galliano
Mr Galliano’s case has been further hampered by the emergence of a video in which he shouts “I love Hitler” and tells two Italian women that their parents should have been “gassed” in Nazi concentration camps.
Neither of the women has pressed charges.
“One obvious thing is that John Galliano was ill,” his lawyer Aurelien Hamelle said yesterday.
“He had a triple addiction to alcohol, benzodiazepine (Valium) and sleeping pills ... The combined effect of these drugs is a state of complete and utter abandon.”
Pressure to perform led him to drink heavily and take Valium pills “like candy” as well as sleeping pills regularly, Miss Hamelle said.
“When he was in that state he had no way of knowing or remembering what he said.”
Mr Galliano has apologised repeatedly for the recorded remarks, and entered rehab.
Miss Bloch’s lawyer, Yves Beddouk, said his client was only looking for a euro of symbolic damages and the publication of the court decision in the fashion magazines Elle and Vogue and in the French daily Le Figaro.
The court case is expected to last one afternoon, with a verdict due in September.