John Galliano is used to being judged by the fashion world for his impressive collections. Today, he's facing a different kind of judge--one who can actually toss the ex-Christian Dior head in the slammer for allegedly hurling anti-Semitic insults at a couple in a Paris caf back in February.
The 50-year-old designer, who was canned as the creative director of the fashion house after the incident, faces a media frenzy as he enters the 17th Chamber of the Paris Correctional Court. There, his lawyer plans to portray the fashion designer as a heavy pill popper and alcohol abuser.
Here's what we should expect.
First, a recap of the incident that got him here.
Unlike in the U.S., where you can pretty much utter whatever you want, offend some people and then just embark on an apology tour, anti-Semitism is an actual criminal offense in France. So, when it was alleged Galliano used racial slurs and called a woman a "dirty Jew" and her boyfriend an "Asian bastard" as they sipped cocktails on a terrace next to his Paris apartment, the police quickly got involved. Based on an investigation and eyewitnesses reports (another woman came forward to say targeted her with a similar rant in the same caf last October), Parisian prosecutors decided to send him to trial.
Galliano is now facing six months in jail and more than $33,000 in fines if he's found guilty of the charge of "casting public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity."
Prosecutors plan on hammering Galliano hard, presenting him as a bigot with a long history of prejudices that boil to the surface when he drinks heavily. They could even pull out an old video of him shouting "I love Hitler" and telling two Italian women their parents should have been "gassed" in a Nazi concentration camp.
How will Galliano, who has claimed he "fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination," try to counter?
His lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, said yesterday that her client acted out of line because he has serious addiction issues and that she'd be using it as his defense in court today. (He had failed a sobriety test the cops issued after the outburst.)
"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," Hamelle said.
Intense work pressures to deliver hit collection after collection caused the designer to drink like a fish, pop Valium "like candy" and take sleeping pills regularly, his lawyer claimed.
"When he was in that state he had no way of knowing or remembering what he said," she explained.
Galliano had entered rehab after issuing an apology for the outburst. But he was axed by Dior, which released a statement saying the company had "zero tolerance towards any anti-Semitic or racist remarks or behavior."
The feisty Brit had worked at the company for 14 years before his downfall.
The case is expected to last just one afternoon, but a verdict will not be delivered until September.