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Image: John Galliano
Thibault Camus  /  AP
Fashion designer John Galliano, who is on trial on charges he hurled racist insults at people at a Paris cafe, testified he remembers nothing about the insults.
updated 6/22/2011 7:30:48 PM ET 2011-06-22T23:30:48

Former Dior designer John Galliano took the stand Wednesday and testified that he remembers nothing about allegedly using anti-Semitic slurs at a Paris cafe because of his "triple addiction" to alcohol, barbiturates and sleeping pills.

The 50-year-old designer apologized for spouting an anti-Semitic diatribe in a separate incident captured in video, posted on the Internet and shown to the court, saying these are not his views but reflect instead "the shell of John Galliano ... someone who needs help."

Prosecutor Anne de Fontette did not request jail time for Galliano, asking instead for a fine of no less than €10,000 ($14,400) for Galliano. The verdict in the one-day trial is due Sept. 8.

Charges that the outspoken British designer insulted several patrons of the cafe in the trendy Marais district with anti-Semitic remarks shocked the fashion world and cost Galliano his job at the renowned French high-fashion house.

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Galliano is charged with "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" and could ultimately face up to six months in prison and up to €22,500 ($32,175) in fines. The three judges hearing the case are not required to follow the prosecutor's request. However, it is rare that the maximum sentence is handed to a first-time offender.

French law prohibits public insults toward others because of their origins, race or religion.

The prosecutor considered that the anti-Semitic slurs were indeed public because at least one client overheard him insulting a couple that initially brought the case.

Were the court to decide that his words were not spoken publicly, the charge would become a misdemeanor.

The defense contended that Galliano was not speaking publicly at the cafe and, because of his inebriated state, had no intention of being hurtful when he spoke.

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Galliano's appearance at the one-day trial put him in the public eye for the first time in months. In a conservative look for him, Galliano was dressed in black with a polka dot neckerchief, sporting a pencil mustache and long hair.

Journalists, including fashion writers, packed the wooden benches in the paneled, gilded courtroom, which features a high ceiling painted with a woman holding the scales of justice. Television cameras were not allowed but zoomed in on Galliano as he went inside.

The famed designer was escorted to a front-row seat at the Justice Palace courtroom, sitting next to an interpreter as he faced the three judges who will decide his fate.

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Presiding Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud asked about the evening of Feb. 24, when Galliano allegedly derided a couple with anti-Semitic insults.

Galliano repeatedly said he remembered nothing.

"I have a triple addiction. I'm a recovering alcoholic and a recovering addict," he testified in English when asked why his memory was blank. He said he started drinking in 2007 and became addicted to alcohol, barbiturates and sleeping pills.

After his detention by police in February, Galliano said he underwent rehabilitation treatment in Arizona for two months and also in Switzerland.

"After every creative high, I would crash and the alcohol helped me," he said, adding that his creativity "helped make Dior a billion-dollar business."

Asked why he didn't tell police investigators about his addictions, Galliano responded: "I was in denial. I was still taking those pills and alcohol, and I was in complete denial."

A couple contends that Galliano made anti-Semitic comments to them in the cafe in February. Galliano was taken in by police for questioning, and a sobriety test showed he was drunk. Another woman then came forward with similar claims about another incident in the same cafe in October. Both accusations were being addressed at Wednesday's trial.

Days after the February incident, a video was broadcast on the website of the British tabloid The Sun showing an inebriated Galliano insulting a fellow cafe client, slurring: "I love Hitler."

The court asked the designer about the anti-Semitic views he spouts in the 45-second-long video.

"These are not views that I hold or believe in," he said. "In the video, I see someone who needs help, who's vulnerable. It's the shell of John Galliano. I see someone who's been pushed to the edge."

"All my life I've fought against prejudice and intolerance and discrimination because I have been subjected to it myself.

"I apologize for the sadness that this affair has caused and I apologize to the court as well," Galliano said.

One member of the couple allegedly insulted, Geraldine Bloch, told the court that Galliano pronounced the word "Jewish" "at least 30 times" in the approximately 45-minute-long altercation.

Asked why, in their statements, no one else at the cafe appeared to have heard Galliano say the word Jewish, Bloch replied, "I am very surprised."

"He didn't say it any softer or louder than the other commentaries," she said.

When asked if the designer appeared to be drunk, Bloch responded, "I don't know if he was drunk but he was behaving completely strangely."

Judges then asked why she remained seated next to him. Bloch said he had upset her so much with his "gratuitous insults," that staying there became a "question of principle" for her.

Another patron of the cafe, 30-year-old English teacher, Marion Bully, was called as a defense witness. Bully said she was surprised that instead of changing tables, the couple ordered another drink.

"It was very difficult to tell who had insulted whom," she told the court.

Galliano repeated a litany of insults, including "Shut up," "You're ugly" and others with four-letter words, Bully told the court.

"(But) I absolutely didn't hear anything anti-Semitic," she testified, adding she thought the altercation was "totally overblown."

Galliano described his increasing work loads at Dior and his signature label, John Galliano, due to the financial crisis. "They kept me very busy," he said, adding that he had not had time to mourn after the 2007 death of his right hand man, Stephen Robinson, and the 2005 death of his father.

His lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, told The Associated Press earlier that the designer's comments were "misplaced and hurtful" but attributed them to Galliano's addition to alcohol and prescription drugs.

Galliano issued a statement at the time saying: "Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense." He also said he was "seeking help" for personal failures.

If the court determines that the insults against the victims were heard by other people, it would be a crime and a conviction could lead to a prison term. If such insults were not witnessed, they would only amount to a petty offense and be punishable by a fine.

The February cafe incident and the video reverberated throughout the fashion world because they became known on the eve of Paris Fashion Week. Dior fired Galliano after 14 years with the company and denounced his comments.

After joining the company in 1996, Galliano made an indelible mark on the storied house, with theatrical, often outrageous, runway shows that were among the most-anticipated displays on the Paris fashion calendar.

The trial is being held on the opening day of another round of Paris fashion shows, the menswear spring-summer 2012 collection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Dior axes Galliano in wake of anti-Semitic rant

  1. Closed captioning of: Dior axes Galliano in wake of anti-Semitic rant

    >> christian dior says the firing of john galliano after an online video supporting claims that he made antisemitic remarks sent shock waves through fashion week in paris . anne thompson is there. good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. it's all anyone is talking about here in paris . john galliano has dressed some of the most glamorous women in the world and his work has been honored by the french president and britain's queen elizabeth . this morning he's out of christian dior , the victim of his own appalling behavior.

    >> reporter: john galliano 's designs are staples on the carpet. nicole kidman and sharon stone both in dior on the market. his style made him a bold-faced name in fashion. but it's his outrageous words caught on tape and posted by a british newspaper that were too much for the house of dior .

    >> i love hitler. people like you would be dead.

    >> reporter: on tuesday christian dior started firing procedures against its chief designer calling the remarks deeply offensive and in contradiction to the core values of the fashion house . the taped remarks made last december mirror an incident last week that led to the arrest in paris , accused of making antisemitic remarks to a couple in a cafe. this woman was an eyewitness.

    >> john galliano kept insulting this man's girlfriend. and so this man got annoyed and decided to be threatening towards galliano .

    >> reporter: galliano denies wrongdoing, but this tape of as previous event appears to do serious damage to his credibility.

    >> your mothers, your forefathers would be [ bleep ] gassed and [ bleep ] dead.

    >> reporter: in the world of fashion, galliano is a legend. his client list, a plus. from the late princess diana to actress charlize thereon but one fan turned on him -- natalie portman , sunday's best actress winner and the public face of dior . after the video appeared this week, portman, who is jewish, said she was shocked and disgusted and will not be associated with galliano in any way. in a business where image is everything, fashionistas wonder if he can survive it.

    >> it will be difficult for him to get back into the industry unless he goes into rehab and the video is completely forgotten.

    >> reporter: interestingly, none of the women to whom galliano made the remarks is jewish. still, making antisemitic remarks is a crime in france. if he's charged and convicted, he could get six months in prison.

    >> anne, thank you very much.

Photos: Milan’smemorable menswear

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  1. Memorable menswear

    From bright leather vests to kitschy plaid suits, designers showed off bold, fun and offbeat styles at Milan Men’s Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2012.

    Left: A model wears a creation of Giorgio Armani men's collection in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. The event runs from June 18- 21. (Antonio Calanni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A model walks the runway during the Nicole Farhi Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Jacopo Raule / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Models take to the catwalk wearing creations from Versace's Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Daniel Dal Zennaro / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A model in Versace's men's Spring-Summer 2012 show. (Antonio Calanni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A model wears a look from the Alexander McQueen Spring-Summer 2012 menswear collection. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A model takes to the catwalk for the D&G Spring-Summer 2012 show. (Matteo Bazzi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A model walks the runway during the D&G fashion show. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A model walks the runway during the Etro menswear fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2012. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A model walks the runway during the Etro menswear fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2012. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A model wears a look from Versace's Spring-Summer 2012 show. (Omaggio Press Office Versace via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A model wears a look from Versace's Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Omaggio Press Office Versace via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Models walk the runway in looks from the John Richmond Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Daniel Dal Zennaro / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A model wears a creation from Gucci's men's Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Antonio Calanni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A model wears a look from Gucci's Spring-Summer 2012 menswear collection in Milan. (Giuseppe Cacace / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A model wears a look from the John Richmond Spring-Summer 2012 menswear collection. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A model walks the John Richmond Spring-Summer 2012 runway. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A model walks the runway during the Dirk Bikkembergs Sport Couture fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week's Spring-Summer 2012 menswear collections. (Jacopo Raule / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A model wears a look from the Dirk Bikkembergs Sport Couture Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Daniel Dal Zennaro / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A model walks the runway during the Moncler Gamme Bleu fashion show. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A model walks the runway during the Moncler Gamme Bleu fashion show. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A model walks the runway during the Moncler Gamme Bleu fashion show. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A model wears a look from the Prada men's Spring-Summer 2012 collection. (Antonio Calanni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A model walks the runway during the Calvin Klein Collection Spring-Summer 2012 menswear show. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A model walks the runway during the Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2012 menswear show. (Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A model wears a look from the Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer 2012 menswear collection. (Giuseppe Cacace / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A model takes to the catwalk wearing a creation by Burberry Prorsum during Milan Men's Fashion Week on June 18, 2011. (Matteo Bazzi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A model walks the runway during the Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2012 show. (Stefania D'alessandro / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A model wears a look from Dolce & Gabbana's Spring-Summer 2012 Menswear collection. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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