With a heart she said had “cracked right down the middle,” the mother of a cabdriver who died in a Franklin Square hit-and-run looked Thursday at the motorist who killed her son and spoke to him about love anyway.
“Nothing can ever bring my son back to life,” Paulette Mitacek, the mother of Paul Mitacek, 47, told Queens man Duke Obule, 24, in Nassau County Court. “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 met Mitacek’s gaze directly from across the Mineola courtroom and nodded at the 72-year-old Coram woman.
Minutes later, Nassau County Supervising Judge Christopher Quinn sentenced Obule to 5 to 10 years in prison after his previous guilty plea to charges that included second-degree manslaughter, assault, leaving an accident scene and aggravated unlicensed driving — all in connection with the April 23, 2016, Hempstead Turnpike fatality.
But first, Mitacek also told Obule how the death of a son with an “infamous bear hug,” sharp sense of humor and robust laugh had left her family bereft.
The victim’s ex-wife, Deirdre Mitacek, 47, of Oceanside, spoke about how “the world stopped” for the couple’s three young children — now 12, 10 and 8 — when they lost the Elmont man.
“We have all suffered and will continue to suffer immensely because of your choices,” she said.
Prosecutors said Obule had a suspended license and was driving his 2016 BMW car east at up to 105 mph when he hit Mitacek’s 2009 Chevrolet Impala cab at 4:16 a.m.
The force pushed the cab across two oncoming traffic lanes and onto a sidewalk, where it slammed into a utility pole, according to police. Authorities said Obule ran from the scene, where minutes later a police medic pronounced Mitacek dead.
The crash also left Obule’s 20-year-old female passenger with a broken ankle, before authorities said bystanders helped her from the wreck. Police arrested Obule, a Cambria Heights resident, about an hour later and a mile away.
But Obule addressed his actions head-on Thursday after listening to the Mitaceks. For several minutes, he apologized while telling the family he’d been thinking about their pain and the three children growing up fatherless.
“I want to say I’m truly sorry for what happened,” Obule said, explaining that he got “a sign from God” about love and loss when his own father died nearly a year after the crash.
“I don’t know when I’ll forgive myself, and I’m taking steps to be a better person,” he said.
He later turned again to face Mitacek’s mother and former wife as court officers walked him out in handcuffs.
“I’m sorry,” he told each of them.
Mitacek’s mother smiled through her tears as she left court with other relatives.
“I really felt like that was from his heart,” she said of Obule. “And I really hope he turns it around.”