Argued: October 30, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Virginia, at Danville. Jackson L. Kiser, Senior
District Judge. (4:97-cr-70070-JLK-1)
M. Lorish, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER,
Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.
Jennifer R. Bockhorst, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Abingdon, Virginia, for Appellee.
O. Scott, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL
PUBLIC DEFENDER, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellant.
T. Cullen, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED
STATES ATTORNEY, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellee.
AGEE, THACKER, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges.
Junior Venable appeals from the district court's summary
denial of his motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(1)(B), as authorized by the First Step Act of
2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018). The
district court held that the First Step Act did not authorize
a reduction in Venable's sentence because he had
completed his original term of imprisonment and was currently
in custody following revocation of supervised release. For
the reasons set out below, we conclude that the district
court erred in determining Venable was statutorily ineligible
for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. Therefore,
we vacate the judgment denying Venable's motion and
remand to the district court to consider that motion on the
merits in the first instance.
statutory framework for this case involves the intersection
of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124
Stat. 2372 (2010), and the First Step Act. The Fair
Sentencing Act reduced the penalties for specific
cocaine-related offenses punishable under 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(A) and (b)(1)(B) by increasing the amount of
cocaine base required to trigger certain statutory penalties.
In relevant part, Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act
increased from 5 grams to 28 grams the quantity of cocaine
base required to trigger the statutory penalties for a Class
B felony set forth in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). This
change also meant that an offense for less than 28 grams
would thereafter be classified as a Class C felony and
subject to lower statutory penalties.
2018, Congress enacted and the President signed into law the
First Step Act, with the purpose of modifying prior
sentencing law and expanding vocational training,
early-release programs, and other initiatives designed to
reduce recidivism. See, e.g., John Wagner, Trump
Signs Bipartisan Criminal Justice Bill Amid Partisan Rancor
over Stopgap Spending Measure, Washington Post, Dec. 21,
2018. In particular, Section 404 of the First Step Act allows
previously sentenced defendants to file a motion requesting
the sentencing court to "impose a reduced sentence as if
[S]ections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 were in
effect at the time the covered offense was committed."
Pub. L. 115-391, § 404; 132 Stat. 5194, 5222
(2018).,  A "covered offense" is defined
in the First Step Act as "a violation of a Federal
criminal statute, the statutory penalties for which were
modified by [S]ection 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of
2010, that was committed before August 3, 2010."
1997, Venable pleaded guilty to possession with intent to
distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a) (Count One), and possession of a firearm after having
been convicted of a felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1) (Count Two). Venable stipulated that his applicable
drug weight for Count One was 12.1 grams of cocaine base.
This quantity of drugs was classified as a Class B felony
under then-applicable law, which provided for a statutory
minimum term of imprisonment of 5 years and a maximum term of
40 years' imprisonment. The district court sentenced
Venable to 110 months' imprisonment on ...