A SHORT time ago, on a city street not so far away, Cyrus Rafizadeh decided to go cruising in his 2013 Lotus Elise while wearing a replica Star Wars helmet.http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/star-wars-fan-cyrus-rafizadeh-beats-sa-police-fine-for-driving-110k-lotus-while-wearing-stormtrooper-helmet/news-story/bf26b37673c43b0fa60f423380180d4d
The idea was inspired by the sleek lines of the $100,000 car which strongly resembles Darth Vader’s loyal minions, the stormtroopers.
“I originally saw it on the internet. Someone first did it back in 2010, driving a white Lotus and wearing a stormtrooper helmet,” Mr Rafizadeh told The Advertiser.
“I saw it and thought ‘I have to do this’.”
For months, Mr Rafizadeh’s trips through the CBD drew laughter not only from the public but also police officers, some of whom even posed for photos.
The cruises, recorded on his dashcam, went viral on social media and were viewed by nearly 10 million people worldwide.
“The reaction I got was priceless ... people who see me laugh, they’re happy, they have a good time,” he said.
“Sometimes, older people got really bewildered. They think they’ve seen it all, and then there’s a stormtrooper driving down the street alongside them.
Mr Rafizadeh, and Stormtrooper Dustin Wilson, turn heads outside court. Picture: Greg Higgs.
“I was doing it because it made people laugh, because it made them, and me, happy.”
The fun ended on April 22 last year when officers at the Hindley St station pulled Mr Rafizadeh over and seized his helmet.
“They issued me with a $375 fine for driving with obscured vision, told me they were taking the helmet and said I wasn’t getting it back,” he said.
“As I was leaving the station, one officer said ‘you don’t have any more of these, do you?’.
“I told him I have a Darth Vader helmet and he said ‘well, we don’t want to see you driving around in it’.”
Strangely, it was the second Star Wars related incident on SA’s roads in three years.
At Cumberland Park in October 2013, a 27-year-old man in full stormtrooper armour recorded a blood-alcohol reading of 0.085 and lost his licence for six months.
Mr Rafizadeh decided to contest his fine, and it was not the first time he had crossed lightsabres with an opponent in court.
He and his family, based in Houston in the US, spent eight years embroiled in a defamation fight with a mortgage-servicing company over online accusations of fraudulent behaviour.
In 2009, a jury found in favour of the company and awarded it USD$12.5 million compensation.
That judgment was vacated when the parties settled their dispute out of court.
Mr Rafizadeh driving his 2013 Lotus Elise while wearing the helmet. Image: Facebook.
An SA Police officer dons Mr Rafizadeh’s seized helmet to demonstrate how it covers a person’s face. Image: Adelaide Magistrates Court documents.
This week, in the Adelaide Magistrates Court, police upped the contested charge to driving without due care — increasing the penalty to a $2500 fine and the loss of three demerit points.
“There was no way that I was driving without due care ... I don’t drink, and the car was travelling at about 10km/h when I was pulled over,” Mr Rafizadeh said.
“I’d also altered the helmet by removing the eye pieces so I had an unobstructed view of the road.”
“My friends and I had joked that, because stormtroopers always miss in the movies, I was no danger because I’d never hit anything wearing the helmet.”
When the matter came to hearing, police offered to finalise Mr Rafizadeh’s matter with a lesser fine and no conviction if he pleaded guilty to the charge.
He declined, and police immediately dropped the case.
In a moment of wisdom worthy of a Jedi master, Magistrate John Wells asked Mr Rafizadeh to promise the court he would never again wear the helmet on the roads.
“I felt relieved but also torn ... I fought the charge because I hadn’t done anything wrong and because I wanted to be able to keep wearing the helmet,” he said.
“But I realised everyone involved had been very fair and had compromised, so I needed to as well, and I promised.
“Even though it stings, the stormtrooper has retired, but at least when I get my helmet back, there’s a story behind it.”