A son’s death, a mother’s forgiveness

At his sentencing, Duke Obule offers Paulette Mitacek an apology


Duke Obule, a Cambria Heights, Queens, man, was sentenced on Aug. 2 to five to 10 years in prison for manslaughter, assault and other charges related to a fatal hit-and-run car crash on Hempstead Turnpike that killed Paul Mitacek, an Elmont man, in April 2016, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. 

It was what was said at the trial that might be more noteworthy. Paulette Mitacek, Paul's mother, told Obule that she forgave him. "Nothing can ever bring my son back to life," she said at the court hearing. "The greatest thing Paul possessed was love, and I am certain he would have forgiven you. I forgive you, Mr. Obule, and I do hope you can forgive yourself."

Obule, 24, struck Mitacek, 47, a taxi driver, as they both drove through Franklin Square. A passenger in the car Obule was driving was injured, Singas said.

The district attorney recommended that Obule receive the maximum sentence of 7.5 to 15 years on the manslaughter charge. "This cowardly defendant's outrageous recklessness cost the life of an innocent and hardworking father of three when he sped into Paul Mitacek's cab and then fled the scene," Singas said. "This sentence sends a clear message to those who drive with a suspended license, dangerously speed and leave the scene of a crash that they will face serious consequences for their recklessness. My heart goes out to the Mitacek family for their loss."

Singas said that at about 4:16 a.m. on April 23, 2016, Obule was driving east on Hempstead Turnpike in a 2016 BMW, in the rain, at speeds of up to 105 miles per hour, with a 20-year old female passenger in the front seat. Obule's license had been suspended in Queens only two weeks earlier, on April 7.

Officials said that Obule and his female passenger were traveling from a hookah lounge in Farmingdale when the BMW crashed into Mitacek's taxi, a 2009 Chevrolet Impala. The impact, which was captured on surveillance video, pushed the taxi into a telephone pole at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Lincoln Road, nearly wrapping around the pole. Mitacek died in the car. He was working in the cab at the time of the crash. 

At the sentencing, his ex-wife, Deirdre, described how "the world stopped" for their children, who ranged in age from 12 to 7 at the time. "We have all suffered and will continue to suffer because of your choices," she told Obule. "That was the hardest day of my life, having to sit the children down on the sofa and just telling them that their father was dead."

According to authorities, after the crash Obule ran off, abandoning his passenger, who was disabled by her injuries. She was carried to a bench by witnesse,s and later taken to a hospital with a broken ankle. Police found Obule near the scene less than an hour later, still carrying his car keys. 

He pleaded guilty on June 7 before Supervising Judge Christopher Quinn to second-degree manslaughter; second-degree assault; leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting in death; leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, resulting in physical injury; third-degree assault; and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operating of a motor vehicle.  

At his sentencing, Obule acknowledged Mitacek's mother and ex-wife and apologized to them. "I'm truly sorry for what I did," he said. "I don't know when I'll forgive myself, and I'm taking steps to be a better person."

Paulette said she forgave Obule. "He didn't intentionally wake up that day and say, 'I'm going to kill Paul Mitacek,'" she said. "So I can't hold anything against this young man."