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Court Sets Date for Galliano Defamation Case

Godfrey Deeny
May 12th, 2011 @ 00:49 AM - Paris

At the request of French prosecutors and several civil plaintiffs, a Paris court ruled Thursday, May 12, that designer John Galliano will stand trial on June 22 for defamation and repeatedly making racist comments.

The Gibraltar-born former couturier of Christian Dior faces up to six months in prison and a fine of 22,500 euros, or $32,400, for allegedly making racist and anti-Semitic remarks on several occasions in his local Paris cafe, La Perle. One notoriously drunken rant was captured on a mobile phone and seen by millions on the Internet.

Galliano did not appear before the court, the Tribunal de Grand Instance, in central Paris, but his lawyer Aurelien Hamelle insisted he would be present next month.

"As a mark of respect to the court and to the victims, he will definitely be in court in June. He knows what he said was not right. And he regrets the remarks he made. But we should remember he was sick and in a bad place. He was so drunk he cannot really remember what he said. And he is still undergoing treatment now," Hamelle told FWD after the 15-minute audience in court.

The three-judge panel, led by court president Dominique Lefebvre Ligneul, also indicated that the infamous video could be used as evidence in the trial. However, Galliano is not being charged for the remarks made in the mobile phone video, whose origin remains a mystery.

"We still don't whom or when and how the video was shot. But in France it can certainly be used as an exhibit," stressed Hamelle after the audience, where eight different lawyers in black cloaks addressed the court.

This past week, Galliano suddenly dismissed his long-term Paris attorney Stephane Zerbib, replacing him with Hamelle, due to alleged irregularities in the administration of Galliano's financial affairs over several years.

Following his drunken outburst where he is clearly heard on the blurry video saying, "I love Hitler," the house of Christian Dior dismissed Galliano, where he had been head designer for over a decade. He subsequently fled to the United States for an "intensive" one-month treatment at a rehabilitation center in Arizona.

Dior initially suspended Galliano after a row with Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgiti, in La Perle on Feb. 24. After hearing of the incident, another plaintiff, Fatia Oummedour, came forward claiming the designer had made similar comments on Oct. 8, 2010.

Bloch, Virgiti and Oummedour would not comment on the case, but the attorney for Oummedoud, Nathalie Micault, said her client's goal was for Galliano to admit what he did and make a public apology.

"Nobody should be allowed to around making these sort of insults, especially Mr. Galliano, who is an important public figure. Madame Oummedour just wants the public to know precisely what happened. Galliano made deeply offensive remarks, sexist, bigoted and against their personal appearance. They want that he pays a fine for his unacceptable behavior," said Micault, who predicted that, even if convicted, the court would be very unlikely to put Galliano in prison.

Since Galliano returned to Paris last month, the board of his own fashion house, which is 90 percent controlled by the giant French luxury conglomerate LVMH, also fired the designer.

After his dismissal by Dior in March, Galliano did issue a lengthy press release in which he stated: "I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I find 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 I must work hard to gain people's understanding and compassion."

Since his return from America, Galliano has not been seen in public.

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