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[July 06, 2014]
Violent criminal charges 'shock' Memphis nonprofits helped by former civic leader [The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. :: ]
(Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 07--Mark Giannini climbed to the higher echelons of civic stature in Memphis, and then plunged to the depths.
The same man who founded, grew and sold Service Assurance, a company that provided information technology (IT) services to small businesses, is now charged with aggravated rape, possession of controlled substances with intent to sell, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.
Those are the kinds of crimes seldom associated with someone who has chaired fundraising committees, written a business book and been featured as a luncheon speaker.
Giannini, who used to be sought after by prominent nonprofit institutions to serve on their boards, is now accused of doing things that a young woman never sought.
A review of nonprofit websites indicates he is no longer a board member for organizations he has served in the past.
But this is an executive who made good on a $35,280 pledge to bail out a financially troubled cat-adoption service.
Giannini helmed a big wine event to raise money for Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
He wasn't just a Greater Memphis Chamber board member; the chamber tapped him to lead a major campaign to recruit new members.
People paid $25 to hear him speak at Society of Entrepreneur lunches.
He partnered with another company to raise $7,500 for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis. Other boards he served included the Better Business Bureau and Leadership Institute.
Giannini served at the street-level as well. He and his employees would go around distributing cold bottles of water to outdoors workers when the temperature climbed above 100 degrees.
DeNeuville Learning Center recruited him to emcee a graduation ceremony.
He helped lead a company food drive for the Greater Memphis Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force.
Memphis journalists solicited his insight on everything from how businesses should respond to social media reviews, to how to throw a successful party, to storing data on the cloud, to making sausage at home.
But there was a skeleton, not in the closet of his gated Eads estate, but in his den, according to the affidavit of complaint.
"... There was a skeleton hanging in the den area, and she started to feel uncomfortable," the police affidavit states, referring to the 26-year-old woman who reported a three-hour attack she said took place in his home of brightly colored rooms.
Giannini, through his attorney, denies all charges. When The Commercial Appeal contacted Giannini by phone last week, he said, "At this point, without consulting my attorney, I really can't say anything. I'm sure you can appreciate that." The rush to judgment always surprises Charles Mitchell, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the Giannini case.
"There's always two sides to a story," Mitchell said. "There will more than likely be more information that comes out as the case moves forward." But Mitchell is not surprised when someone, no matter his stature in the community, is charged with a crime.
"In my experience as a criminal defense attorney over 10 years, people of all socio-economic backgrounds commit crimes," he said. "People of all races and religions commit crimes.
"Most of the crimes committed by the higher- or upper-level of the socio-economic ladder would be drug crimes, driving-under-the-influence type crimes. The violent nature of a rape and aggravated kidnapping would be unusual, but you are never surprised by the double lives that some people lead," Mitchell said.
Some of the nonprofit organizations Giannini served were not eager to talk about last week's developments. But others expressed surprise.
"We were shocked," said Megan Klein, vice president of development and marketing for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis. More than three years have passed since Giannini was involved with and an advocate for the club, Klein said, adding, "It's just unfortunate when we hear things like this happening." Giannini, a Christian Brothers University alumnus, had served several years ago on the CBU alumni board, acknowledged Wendy Sumner-Winter, CBU's senior director of external affairs.
"I don't believe he held a leadership role in terms of being president of that board. He was just a member, a regular contributor,'' she said.
Visible Music School was another institution Giannini served. But founder and president Ken Steorts declined to comment.
If Giannini did what he's accused of, perhaps the undisclosed amount of money he got in 2012 for selling Service Assurance affected him, Elain Harvey said.
"Maybe it was a possibility he couldn't handle it," said Harvey, founder of House of Mews, the cat-adoption service bailed out by Giannini in 2010.
Harvey described being in "total shock" over the charges.
That figures, since Giannini's unexpected, unsolicited support enabled her to keep her house she would have sold to fund the House of Mews in Cooper-Young.
Service Assurance mailed $980 checks monthly for 36 months to the cat-adoption service. "He is allergic to cats; that's the funny part of it," Harvey said.
The last of the monthly checks came a year ago. "They were always on time or ahead of time," she recalled.
___ (c)2014 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at www.commercialappeal.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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