Two New Zealand brothers have been sentenced to 16 and a half and 17 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting 18 young women at the Christchurch restaurant and bar they managed. The case, which shocked New Zealanders, has also prompted public debate over how the men were able to prey on young women for four years, and whether it reflects a wider culture of sexual violence and misogyny.
The two men, Danny and Roberto Jaz, 40 and 38 years old, sexually assaulted 18 patrons of Mama Hooch and Venuti, a well-known downtown bar and restaurant in Christchurch which was owned by their father, who is not accused of any wrongdoing. Many of the women were teenagers or in their early 20s at the time. Danny Jaz was the bar’s manager, and Roberto was a chef at Venuti and sometimes worked at the bar. The two men were born and raised in Australia, but moved to New Zealand in the early 2000s.
The brothers drugged a number of their victims, and had a WhatsApp group where they discussed assaults, date-rape drugs, and exchanged photos planning which women to target. Roberto sexually assaulted five young women, including one whom he filmed being raped at the restaurant.
Danny assaulted 15, a number of whom he followed into the bar’s bathrooms before attacking. They were collectively convicted of 69 charges, including rape, indecent assault, sexual violation, supplying illicit drugs, stupefying and disabling, and making intimate recordings of women without their consent.
“The level of your offending is unknown in this country,” judge Paul Mabey said as he sentenced the brothers on Thursday. “You helped yourself to young women with callous disregard for their rights and their dignity, their youth.”
He imposed a minimum period of imprisonment of 50% for both men – meaning they must serve half their sentence before being eligible for parole.
Six women presented statements in court on Thursday, detailing the impact the crimes had had on them. Some read their statements standing side-by-side to support each other.
“You stole my fierce independence from me … for those things I’ll never forgive you,” said Sophie Brown, 25, who was drugged and sexually assaulted by Danny Jaz at 19. She waived her name suppression to discuss the case, and can be identified. Brown spoke about the effect of Danny’s crimes, but also of the wider rates of sexual violence against women in New Zealand. “I believe you have a daughter, she will be 19 one day … she continues to live in a world where [the chances of] running into a man like you are one in four.“
A 27-year-old who was drugged and indecently assaulted by Danny said that she now planned to pursue a career in the police, “to fight for the validation of women … and fight for them to be believed”.
While Danny pleaded guilty to some of the sexual assault charges, neither brother has expressed remorse for their crimes. They stood expressionless in the dock as victim impact statements were read.
“Neither of you have expressed any remorse, empathy or feelings,” judge Paul Mabey said. “You lied. You minimised. You demonstrated an arrogant belief that you could talk yourself out of anything”.
While he had received a series of character references for the men, the judge said, “you are not men of good character, you are sexual predators”.
Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae said New Zealand had seen no other cases such as this in terms of the scale and type of offending. The case has sent ripples through the country, with an outpouring of anger and support for the survivors.
On Thursday, a group of women in Christchurch – where the attacks occurred – took out full page advertisements to print an open letter in the city’s newspapers.
Addressing the victims of the Jaz brothers, they said: “Know that your voices have made a profound difference. You stopped future hurt at the hands of these offenders.”
“To all who have reported sexual violence, who have endured lengthy court proceedings, who have withstood the mental repercussions, we are in awe of you.”
Given New Zealand’s high rates of domestic and sexual violence, some advocates say the case reflects a broader culture threaded with misogyny and sexual violence. “The sexual violence that happened to the young women at Mama Hooch was not an isolated incident,” Marama Davidson, minister for the prevention of family and sexual violence, said in July in written comments on the case.
While she had seen an outpouring of “disgust” from New Zealanders, Davidson said, “These two men are not just “monsters” that we can conveniently dissociate ourselves from. They are part of a culture that is affirmed by this country’s longstanding attitudes towards women.”
According to the Ministry of Justice, 30% of New Zealander experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence at some point in their life, with women three times more likely to experience sexual violence than men. Ninety-four percent of sexual assaults in New Zealand are not reported to police.