Car bomber sentenced to 20 years in prison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - One of two men involved in a car bombing at a home in Parrish was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson sentenced Michael Clayton Earnest, 53, of Northport, to 20 years prison, pay $771,900 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison sentence.

The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance in a statement to FOX6 News. Vance said the judge directed the restitution be divided among the bombing victim, Frank Weems, and insurers. She ordered Earnest to pay $220,900 to Weems to cover lost wages and medical costs not covered by insurance and directed him to pay $540,000 to Blue Cross-Blue Shield and $11,000 to State Farm Insurance.

"Michael Earnest and Keith Lawson tried to commit a horrific murder by bombing a man as he got into his truck at his house," Vance said in the statement. "Great heads-up police work by the Parrish Police chief combined immediately with the cooperative and tireless work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI and the Alabama Fire Marshal's Office to track these men and bring them to justice. This is how an investigation is supposed to work."

Parrish Police Chief Nick Smith said he appreciated the hard work by all the law enforcement involved in the case.

"I believe the good cooperation is what helped solve the case so fast," Smith said.

A federal grand jury in August indicted Earnest and Lawson, 43, also of Northport, in connection with a July 29, 2009, car-bombing that seriously injured Weems when the device exploded beneath his truck.

"Earnest and Lawson snuck around in the shadows in a diabolical murder-for-hire plot," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Jim Cavanaugh. "They were confident they would get away by using a remote-control bomb and a GPS tracker," he said. "But their ability to bomb wasn't as sophisticated as the police and agents' ability to investigate bombings, so today Earnest faces justice and a long sentence that will help keep Alabama and the country safe."

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said the sentence Earnest received is "appropriate for his participation in the crime and for giving him credit for his assistance in the investigation."

Both Earnest and Lawson entered guilty pleas in December. Lawson is scheduled for sentencing April 13.

Earnest pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess an unregistered explosive device, possession of an unregistered explosive device and two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. One of the felon in possession counts was for the bomb, the second was for two shotguns and a pistol found in Earnest's Northport home.

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