Lava Records founder Jason Flom could be the most successful recording executive of this era. But it was his other great passion—for justice—that packed the Paramount at the Tom Tom Festival Founders Summit April 15.
Flom, who said he lost his virginity at a Yes concert when he was 15, launched mega-performers like Katy Perry, Lorde and Kid Rock. He recalled his father telling him, when he balked at finishing college, “Do what you want to do. Just make the world a better place.”
In 1992, he heard about a kid serving serving a 15 years-to-life sentence for cocaine under the harsh Rockefeller drug laws in New York. “I decided to get involved,” he said. “I had my own history of doing drugs. There but for the grace of God….”
Even his own attorney told him nothing could be done, but at Flom’s expense, the attorney got a hearing and the man was freed. “That was so profound,” he said. And that launched his own criminal justice advocacy with Families Against Mandatory Minimums and The Drug Policy Alliance and he was a founding board member of the Innocence Project.
A week ago, Virginia’s latest exoneration was Keith Harward, who walked out of prison after 33 years for a murder and rape he didn’t commit, convicted on the “terrible forensics” of now-discredited bite mark evidence, said Flom. DNA evidence proved he was not the murderer, and 40 percent of exonerations show who the real criminal was, said Flom. In Harward’s case, the real perp was a serial rapist who went on to attack again (he died in prison 10 years ago).
“That never needed to happen if police had done their job,” Flom said.