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Paris court to rule in Galliano anti-Semitism case

The Associated Press, Thursday, September 8, 2011, 2:01am (PDT)

PARIS (AP) -- Disgraced former Christian Dior designer John Galliano is awaiting a verdict Thursday in a Paris court over charges he spewed anti-Semitic insults in a bar — allegations that cost the fashion icon his job and roiled the fashion world.

Galliano faces charges of "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" stemming from two separate incidents at the Paris watering hole. If convicted, he could face up to six months in prison and up to (EURO)22,500 ($32,175) in fines, although prosecutors at his June trial requested a fine of only about half that and no jail time.

Galliano is not expected to attend Thursday's proceedings, according to his lawyer. The designer was present at his trial, looking like a shadow of his flamboyant self, and told the three-judge panel he was sorry "for the sadness that this whole affair has caused."

After nearly 15 critically acclaimed and commercially successful years at Dior, the Briton's brilliant career flamed out after a couple alleged he accosted them while they were having a drink on the terrace of Paris' hip La Perle cafe on Feb. 24.

The incident made headlines worldwide, and another woman soon came forward with similar claims about an earlier incident in the same cafe. Days later, British tabloid The Sun posted an amateur video showing a visibly drunk Galliano insulting a fellow cafe client, slurring: "I love Hitler."

As the video went viral, Dior took swift and decisive action against the man it had long treated as a sort of demigod, sacking Galliano days before the label's fall-winter 2011 runway show in March. He was also ousted from his eponymous label, which is owned by Dior's parent company.

In extensive and often-moving testimony at the June trial, Galliano said he had been under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs and couldn't recall the incidents in question.

He said he'd done a stint in a rehab clinic in Arizona and was recovering from addictions to alcohol, sleeping pills and barbiturates — habits he blamed on the pressures of the high-stakes fashion industry.

The 50-year-old, born Juan Carlos Galliano to a Spanish mother in the British enclave of Gibraltar, rejected any suggestion he was fundamentally racist, saying his multi-cultural influences spoke for themselves. He culled inspiration for his extravagant, theatrical collections from cultures as far-flung as Kenya's Masai people and the geishas of Japan.

Regardless of the court's decision later Thursday, many in the fashion industry regard the damage as done. Galliano was replaced at his signature label by his longtime right-hand man and fellow Briton, Bill Gaytten, in June. Gaytten was also behind the Dior haute couture collection presented the following month to disastrous reviews.

Rumors about Galliano's possible successor have swirled for months, with Lanvin's Alber Elbaz, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and emerging Colombian-born star Haider Ackermann emerging as possible contenders. A report last month in fashion trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily cited unnamed sources as saying that New York designer Marc Jacobs is in talks for the plum gig. Neither Jacobs nor Dior or parent company LVMH would comment.

It remains to be seen whether Galliano will manage to rehabilitate his image and make a comeback, much as supermodel Kate Moss did after images of her taking cocaine hit newspapers. Many industry insiders are betting against it.

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