Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
KALPESH PATEL and PRATIKKUMAR V. PATEL
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Session August 21, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County Nos. F71339A,
F71339B David Bragg, Judge
Petitioners, Kalpesh Patel and Pratikkumar V. Patel, appeal
from the Rutherford County Circuit Court's summary
dismissal of their respective petitions for post-conviction
relief from their 2015 convictions for conspiracy to commit
first degree murder and solicitation to commit first degree
murder, for which the Petitioners each received fifteen-year
sentences. The Petitioners contend that the post-conviction
court erred by summarily dismissing their petitions for
relief and motions to reconsider because (1) they received
the ineffective assistance of trial counsel and (2) the trial
court erred by denying their respective motions to suppress
cell phone evidence at the trial. We affirm the judgments of
the post-conviction court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
Worrick G. Robinson IV, Nashville, Tennessee, and Manubir S.
Arora, Atlanta, Georgia, for the appellants, Kalpesh Patel
and Pratikkumar Patel.
L. Raybin (on appeal), Nashville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Pratikkumar V. Patel.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jennings
H. Jones, District Attorney General; and Sarah N. Davis,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., and John Everett
Williams, P.J., joined.
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE
case arises from the Petitioners' attempt to hire someone
to kill Petitioner Pratikkumar's wife. In the previous
appeal, this court summarized the facts as follows:
Christopher Robinson testified at trial that he was a
construction worker living in Rutherford County and that he
had never been arrested or in any kind of
"criminal" trouble. Mr. Robinson further testified
that he had known Defendant Kalpesh for six or seven years.
Mr. Robinson explained that he had frequented one of
Defendant Kalpesh's stores, that he got to know Defendant
Kalpesh, and that he then began doing construction jobs at
Defendant Kalpesh's stores and home. Mr. Robinson
recalled that in September 2013, he was "doing a water
line" at one of Defendant Kalpesh's stores when
Defendant Kalpesh asked Mr. Robinson if he "would like
to do some work for one of [Defendant Kalpesh's] cousins
at another store." Mr. Robinson told Defendant Kalpesh
that he "would be interested."
On September 29, 2013, Defendant Kalpesh called Mr. Robinson
and asked him to meet at the store to discuss the work with
Defendant Kalpesh's cousin. When he arrived at the store,
Defendant Kalpesh had Mr. Robinson go to "the back
room" where Defendant Pratikkumar was waiting for them.
Mr. Robinson testified that he had never met Defendant
Pratikkumar before. Mr. Robinson claimed that Defendant
Pratikkumar had a gun "[o]n his side" during their
meeting and this made Mr. Robinson "real nervous."
According to Mr. Robinson, Defendant Pratikkumar stated that
he needed "someone to kill [his] wife" and that he
would pay $50, 000 "to have it done." Mr. Robinson
testified that he initially thought the Defendants "were
joking around," but Defendant Pratikkumar "kept
going into details [about] how he wanted it done."
Mr. Robinson explained that Defendant Pratikkumar wanted his
wife shot and a "backup plan" in case "it
could not go that route." According to Mr. Robinson,
Defendant Pratikkumar wanted his wife killed "as soon as
possible." Defendant Pratikkumar told Mr. Robinson that
he would leave his house around 8:00 a.m., that he wanted his
wife killed by 8:30 a.m., and that he "would come back
and make sure the job was done." Defendant Kalpesh was
to pay Mr. Robinson once Defendant Pratikkumar confirmed that
his wife was dead. Mr. Robinson testified that Defendant
Pratikkumar stated that his wife "had to be gone"
and that Defendant Pratikkumar seemed "very
excited" that his wife would soon be dead.
According to Mr. Robinson, Defendant Pratikkumar provided Mr.
Robinson with his wife's address, a description of her
car, and her license plate number. Defendant Pratikkumar told
Mr. Robinson that Defendant Kalpesh would provide him with a
gun the next day. Defendant Pratikkumar also told Mr.
Robinson that his "daughter would be asleep in [her]
bedroom" and that Mr. Robinson was to shoot his wife and
"let the little girl sleep." Mr. Robinson recalled
that "[i]t didn't matter" to Defendant
Pratikkumar if he killed Defendant Pratikkumar's wife or
arranged for someone else to "as long as it was taken
care of." Mr. Robinson was left with the impression that
"[t]he only thing [Defendant Pratikkumar] wanted to make
sure [of] was that [his wife] was dead."
Mr. Robinson testified that Defendant Pratikkumar was
"[k]ind of upset" when he suggested that Defendant
Pratikkumar "get a divorce." According to Mr.
Robinson, Defendant Pratikkumar stated "that he had two
people in Gallatin that [were] going to take care of"
killing his wife, but that he wanted Mr. Robinson "to do
it" because Defendant Kalpesh trusted him. Mr. Robinson
recalled that Defendant Kalpesh was in the room during this
conversation with Defendant Pratikkumar and that Defendant
Kalpesh was "shaking his head" in agreement with
what Defendant Pratikkumar was saying.
Mr. Robinson testified that he was "in shock"
during his conversation with the Defendants. Mr. Robinson
further testified that he told Defendant Pratikkumar that he
"would make sure that it happened" in order to
"buy time for" Defendant Pratikkumar's wife.
Defendant Pratikkumar then left the store. According to Mr.
Robinson, he asked Defendant Kalpesh why Defendant
Pratikkumar could not just get divorced and Defendant Kalpesh
told him that Defendant Pratikkumar's "family would
disown him if [he] got a divorce." Mr. Robinson also
claimed that Defendant Kalpesh told him that Defendant
Pratikkumar "had this planned for a long time." Mr.
Robinson testified that he then left the store and went to
work without telling anyone about what had happened because
he "thought it was a joke."
The next morning, September 30, 2013, Defendant Kalpesh
called Mr. Robinson and asked to meet him in the parking lot
of a Sam's Club in order to pay him for a previous
construction job. Defendant Kalpesh did not tell Mr. Robinson
that Defendant Pratikkumar would also be there. Mr. Robinson
parked his truck and, after a few minutes, Defendant Kalpesh
parked his van on one side of the truck and Defendant
Pratikkumar parked his van on the other side of the truck. A
recording from the Sam's Club's video surveillance
system depicting the parking lot at approximately 9:30 a.m.
on September 30, 2013, was played for the jury. Mr. Robinson
identified his truck and the Defendants' vans on the
surveillance video. According to Mr. Robinson, Defendant
Kalpesh got out of his van and got into Defendant
Pratikkumar's van. A short time later, Defendant Kalpesh
called Mr. Robinson and told him that Defendant Pratikkumar
wanted to talk to him.
According to Mr. Robinson, Defendant Kalpesh got out of
Defendant Pratikkumar's van holding "a sack."
Mr. Robinson testified that when he got in Defendant
Pratikkumar's van, he asked "what was in the
bag," and Defendant Pratikkumar responded that he had
given Defendant Kalpesh "$50, 000 in cash." Mr.
Robinson further testified that Defendant Pratikkumar told
him that Defendant Kalpesh was taking the money "to
trade that cash in" at a different bank so "it
would not be traced back to the bank" it was withdrawn
from. Mr. Robinson claimed that Defendant Pratikkumar then
"started describing everything that he wanted
done." Defendant Pratikkumar gave Mr. Robinson a picture
of his wife, and Mr. Robinson used his cell phone to take a
picture of it. Defendant Pratikkumar also gave Mr. Robinson
his address, a description of his wife's car, and
"her tag number." Mr. Robinson testified that he
wrote all of this information down on a piece of paper.
Mr. Robinson claimed that Defendant Pratikkumar said that he
wanted his wife killed the next morning. According to Mr.
Robinson, Defendant Pratikkumar told his wife that a
"handyman" would be coming to their house that
morning to make some repairs. Defendant Pratikkumar
instructed Mr. Robinson to shoot his wife in their bedroom
and to "throw stuff around" so it would look
"like a robbery gone bad." Mr. Robinson further
claimed that Defendant Pratikkumar told Mr. Robinson to let
his daughter "sit there and cry" if she woke up
during the murder. Mr. Robinson further testified that he and
Defendant Pratikkumar discussed having "another
person" commit the murder. Mr. Robinson claimed that he
agreed to arrange the killing without "getting
[any]thing out of it."
Mr. Robinson testified that he told Defendant Pratikkumar
that he would "make sure that it got done" and went
back to his truck. As Defendant Pratikkumar drove away, Mr.
Robinson wrote down Defendant Pratikkumar's license plate
number and a description of the van on the same sheet of
paper that he had previously written down the information
about Defendant Pratikkumar's wife on. Mr. Robinson
testified that he then went to one of Defendant Kalpesh's
stores. According to Mr. Robinson, Defendant Kalpesh gave him
a box containing $15, 000 in cash. Mr. Robinson also claimed
that Defendant Kalpesh stated that he had not bought a gun,
that he wanted Mr. Robinson "to purchase the gun,"
and that he would give Mr. Robinson "a couple thousand
dollars for the gun after it was all said and done."
Defendant Kalpesh then allegedly instructed Mr. Robinson to
dispose of the gun after the murder by throwing it in a
Mr. Robinson testified that, after the events of that
morning, he believed the Defendants were serious about having
Defendant Pratikkumar's wife killed. Mr. Robinson called
a local attorney, Rick Mansfield, and told him about his
conversations with the Defendants. Mr. Mansfield had Mr.
Robinson call another local attorney who was a former
prosecutor and had contacts with the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation (TBI). As a result of these conversations, Mr.
Robinson was contacted by TBI Special Agent Caleb Utterback.
Agent Utterback met with Mr. Robinson at one of Mr.
Robinson's jobsites. Mr. Robinson gave Agent Utterback
the box containing $15, 000 and the piece of paper with the
information he had written down during his meeting with
Defendant Pratikkumar at Sam's Club. Mr. Robinson also
showed Agent Utterback the picture of Defendant
Pratikkumar's wife that he had taken with his cell phone.
Later that day, Defendant Pratikkumar called Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Robinson did not answer the phone and contacted Agent
Utterback. Agent Utterback arranged to meet Mr. Robinson in
the parking lot of a local store, so Mr. Robinson could call
back Defendant Pratikkumar and their conversation could be
recorded. Defendant Pratikkumar did not answer his phone when
Mr. Robinson called him, but he called Mr. Robinson back a
short time later. This conversation was recorded and played
for the jury at trial. Mr. Robinson started the conversation
by confirming the license plate number of Defendant
Pratikkumar's wife's car. The following exchange then
[Mr. Robinson]: [Okay], what time did you want me to be at
Almaville Market tomorrow?
[Defendant Pratikkumar]: Um, you mean after you finish the
[Mr. Robinson]: Yeah, after the work[']s finished. I mean
he's going to be doing the work, but what time do you
want me there at the store?
[Defendant Pratikkumar]: Oh, you can meet anytime. I mean as
soon as you call me from the store, the work is done; your
work is done too.
[Mr. Robinson]: [Okay], so, and [Defendant Kalpesh] does have
the rest of the money ...