AP via Court TV

Media outlets across the spectrum recently sparked confusion and conspiracy about the truth behind the stabbing of infamous inmate Derek Chauvin. 

Chauvin, who is serving a 22.5-year sentence for the second-degree manslaughter and second- and third-degree murder of George Floyd, was stabbed 22 times with an “improvised knife” on Black Friday by former gang leader and fellow inmate John Turscak, who was eventually pepper-sprayed and detained by guards. Chauvin returned to prison this week. 

Turscak reportedly said that the Black Friday attack in Tucson, Ariz. was premeditated in a poetic tribute to both the Black Lives Matter protests prompted by the death of George Floyd and the infamous “Black Hand” symbol used by the Mexican Mafia. He has since been charged with attempted murder, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. 

Speculation is now on the rise that Turscak is under some sort of federal protection or orders, given that Turscak was a high profile leader in the Mexican Mafia and FBI informant. Turscak himself once expressed an expectation that his work with the FBI would lighten a 2001 sentencing. He “went by the gang name ‘Stranger.’”

Turscak was reportedly moved to an “adjacent federal penitentiary in Tucson” after the stabbing of Chauvin; however, conspiracies and uproar in relation to the Black Friday event still transpired. His work as an FBI informant sparked some suggestions that Chauvin’s stabbing was planned not just by Turscak, but by the federal government.

Across the spectrum, news outlets highlighted the stabbing as a failure in the prison system. A New York Post (Lean Right Bias) article accentuated faults in the system, quoting one of Chauvin’s attorneys as saying, “It appears to be indicative of a poorly run facility and indicates how Derek’s assault was allowed to happen.” It also reported on Chauvin’s mother, who spoke out about being largely kept in the dark throughout the situation, despite the federal prison allegedly having her documented as an emergency contact. 

Similarly, an AZ Central (Center Bias) columnist called the event a “massive system failure.” 

New York Times (Lean Left Bias) cited criticisms of the prison facility, stating that it is not “clear why prison officials failed to protect one of the most hated, and vulnerable, inmates in the 160,000-person federal prison system.” The article also mentioned Larry Nassar’s stabbing in federal prison. Nassar received national attention and hate upon being convicted of sex crimes against young gymnasts. 

Nassar and Chauvin were both in facilities with supposed additional safety measures at the times of their stabbings, as noted by New York Times. James “Whitey” Bulger, Jeffrey Epstein, Larry Nassar, and Derek Chauvin are all infamous criminals who served time in the Tuscon Federal Correctional Institution. Bulger was beaten to death in a West Virginia prison; Epstein’s death was controversially ruled as a suicide by hanging in a New York prison (which has since been shut down); and Nassar was stabbed multiple times in a Florida prison.

Following the Black Friday event, misinformation about Turscak’s identity began to spread on social media, as a picture went viral that misidentified him. Reuters Fact Check (Center Bias) determined the photo to be of businessman John “Shelby” Amos II, who passed away in late November. 

As a result of the photo’s fact check, individuals began searching the internet for a real image of Turscak, which was seemingly nowhere to be found. The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ inmate database has Turscak listed as a white man in his early fifties as of December 2023. Furthermore, due to both federal and state regulations and legislation, Turscak’s mugshot is not necessarily public domain

As far as whether or not the federal government is protecting John Turscak, there is currently no evidence to confirm or deny theories, but there is certainly common ground on critiques of the United States prison system. 

Malayna J. Bizier is a Content Intern at AllSides. She has a Right bias.

This piece was reviewed by Henry A. Brechter, Editor-in-chief (Center bias), Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Isaiah Anthony, Deputy Blog Editor (Center bias)