John Galliano told a Paris court that, while addictions to alcohol and drugs left him unable to remember anti-Semitic and racist attacks bar patrons claim he made, he was sorry for “the sadness this affair has caused.”
The 50-year-old, Gibraltar-born designer said he began receiving treatment for addiction to alcohol, sleeping pills and valium at a clinic in Arizona in February and is now being treated in Switzerland. He isn’t working.
Galliano was fired by Christian Dior SA over a video recording of him saying “I love Hitler.” He testified yesterday that, when questioned by police, he denied making other racist and anti-Semitic statements outright because, “I was still taking those pills. I was in complete denial.”
Galliano’s accusers at the trial claim he uttered the slurs at a café in Paris’s fashionable third arrondissement. Within days of that Feb. 24 incident, an undated video of a slurring Galliano praising Adolf Hitler, and saying “people like you would be dead,” was posted on the website of the U.K. tabloid The Sun. Galliano was fired by the Paris fashion house the next day, less than a week before he was to host its women’s ready-to-wear show.
Under French sentencing rules on hate speech Galliano faced a maximum 22,500-euro fine and six months in prison if found guilty. Prosecutor Anne de Fontette asked the court to impose “at least” a 5,000-euro ($7,100) fine for each incident.
Aurelien Hamelle, Galliano’s lawyer, argued the court shouldn’t consider a second incident in October, citing statute of limitations rules. The court is scheduled to rule on Sept. 8.
Galliano denied being prejudiced and said he embraces people of all races and religions.
“I know how it feels to be discriminated against,” Galliano said. “We moved to South London when I was six. Already, I was aware that I was gay. I went to a typical school. You can imagine children can be very cruel.”
Geraldine Bloch, who filed a complaint over the February incident, testified that Jewish “was one of the terms said the most” in Galliano’s slurs against her. “I don’t know if he was drunk. He was a bit bizarre. He sweated a lot.”
Other witnesses testified they never heard Galliano make such comments.
The designer’s addictions can’t excuse his statements, Eric Zerbib, a lawyer for LICRA, an international organization opposed to racism and anti-Semitism, said before the testimony.
“It doesn’t explain and it doesn’t excuse anything,” said Zerbib. “In vino, veritas. In wine, the truth. Wine has a liberating effect which allows one to know an individual’s real personality, and given that the deeds were repeated several times, thus we know John Galliano’s personality.”
Galliano said the alcohol and drugs helped him deal with a heavy workload at the Dior and Galliano labels.
“After every high there was a crash,” he told the three judges. “The drink would help me escape.”
Galliano said the 2007 death of his partner at Dior, Steven Robinson, made the situation worse.
“The workload increased enormously,” he said. “And right around this time I lost my beloved friend Steven Robinson. Steven protected me from everything so I could focus on design.
“When Steven died, with his parents I buried him, we went to the crematorium and I went back to do a fitting.”