French court looms for designer Galliano despite apology
John Galliano is to appear before a Paris court on allegations of anti-Semitism, prosecutors said Wednesday as the superstar designer apologised for a drunken tirade but denied the charges against him.
The case will be heard in the second quarter of 2011 and, if found guilty, the couturier -- who was sacked on Tuesday by the fashion house Dior -- could face a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($31,000).
"John Galliano will be prosecuted ... before the criminal court for public insults towards an individual on grounds of their origin or religion ... following complaints from three people," the prosecutor's office said.
The British designer was arrested last Thursday night in a drunken state after a couple in a cafe in Paris' fashionable and historically Jewish Marais district alleged he had subjected them to a stream of anti-semitic abuse.
Since then another woman has come forward to say she suffered a similar attack in October last year and a video has surfaced of Galliano insulting someone else in the same bar and declaring "I love Hitler."
On Wednesday he issued an apology for his behaviour, but insisted it was not anti-Semitic. He has lodged a counter-complaint against the couple from the incident on Thursday, alleging defamation.
"I completely deny the claims made against me and have fully co-operated with the police investigation," said the flamboyant couturier, who is considered one of the finest fashion designers of his generation.
"Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society," he said, in a statement issued by London lawyers Harbottle and Lewis, adding: "I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence."
The scandal has sent shockwaves around the fashion world and overshadowed Paris Fashion Week, where industry insiders expressed their admiration for his genius as well as their shock at his downfall.
"I'll miss you John, you're so talented," wrote the 24-year-old Canadian supermodel Jessica Stam on her Twitter feed, adding: "I love the Jews and what he said is awful, but also sad to watch him leave Dior."
Galliano, 50, said in the statement he had not commented since his arrest last Thursday on the advice of his lawyers, but had decided to speak up following "the continuing delays at the French prosecutor's office".
Denying the claims against him, he confirmed he would sue his accusers, who he said had verbally harassed him and tried to hit him with a chair after "having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing".
"For these reasons I have commenced proceedings for defamation and the threats made against me," he said.
Galliano did not specifically mention another claim against him by a woman who said he had subjected her to a verbal assault last year, or the video, which was posted on the Internet by The Sun newspaper this week.
In the footage, a visibly drunk Galliano tells another couple, in the same Paris bar, La Perle, "I love Hitler". He adds: "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed."
Asked where he is from, Galliano replies: "Your arsehole."
The release of the video prompted fashion house Dior to sack their star designer, saying his behaviour and language was "particularly odious".
Managing director Sidney Toledano said: "I condemn in the strongest terms the things said by John Galliano, which are in complete opposition to the essential values that have always been defended by the Christian Dior house."
In the statement, Galliano acknowledged he had let people down and said he was "seeking help", although he did not specify how, or for what.
"I fully accept that the accusations made against me have greatly shocked and upset people," the Gibraltar-born designer said.
"I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I found myself and for allowing myself to be seen to be behaving in the worst possible light.
"I only have myself to blame and I know that I must face up to my own failures and that I must work hard to gain people's understanding and compassion."
He added: "I have fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself."
© 2011 AFP