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Is Eric James Torpy crazy? Maybe he is just better than you at computing Present Discounted Values

A recent story on the AP wire:

OKLAHOMA CITY — A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird’s jersey number 33.

“He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird’s jersey,” Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. “We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse. But, I know the DA is happy about it.”

I wonder if he would have been so loyal if his favorite player had been Dan Hampton (who wore #99) or Alan Page (one of my heroes growing up routing for the Vikings, now on the Minnesota Supreme Court who wore #88)?

If Eric Torpy discounts the future at 20% a year, spending three years in prison 30 years from now is equivalent to spending an extra 1.35 days in prison in present value terms. In other words, under the assumption of a 20% discount rate, this guy should be willing to trade being free now for 1.35 days for adding an extra 3 years on the end of the term. It is amazing how discounting works. (The calculation is .8^30 to figure out how much a day in prison 30 years from now is worth in present value terms.)

So, this isn’t such an expensive way to honor Larry Bird after all. My guess is that getting the national headlines was worth it to him. Maybe Larry Bird will even send him an autographed copy. If a prisoner said he wanted his sentence upped to match the number of pages in Freakonomics, we would definitely sign a book for him.