Tape Clears Jeopardy! Host of Airline Assault

May 31, 2001 -- In March of last year, a United Airlines employee claimed Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek slammed a metal guard down on her hand while he was trying to get an oversized bag through an X-ray machine.

But in a development that popped up like one of the Daily Doubles that appear on his show's game board, Trebek and his lawyer tracked down an airport surveillance tape that showed that he did no wrong.

Since the charges were filed, Trebek has been maintaining his innocence. After the tape surfaced, the plaintiff — who was claiming battery charges and seeking unspecified damages — dropped the case.

"Yes, I absolutely do feel vindicated, although it's not the outlook that I had hoped for," Trebek told Good Morning America. "What I really wanted was to go before a jury and present my case and have them adjudicate it and say hey, yeah, you're innocent."

A Flap at LAX

The employee, Marlene Andrade, 31, of Hawthorne, Calif., laid out her complaint in court documents filed in March 2000 in Superior Court in Torrance, Calif.

She said that in May 1999 at the Los Angeles International Airport, she asked Trebek to put his oversized bag on a conveyor belt that has a guard at its mouth to check bag sizes. She claimed that he lifted the metal guard as if he had same privileges as airline employees and slammed it on her hand when she intervened, Andrade claimed.

Trebek explained how the tape disputed her story. The guard on the belt was actually plastic and not metal, according to Trebek.

"Now, in her deposition she maintains that she came up behind me, told me that I couldn't do that, and she says that we engaged in a tug of war at that point," Trebek said. "Well, as you can see on the tape, my right hand is holding the suit bag while I'm conversing with her."

Trebek said he did ask the woman a few questions, in what was a heated, but not angry exchange. He asked why he couldn't he put his bag through, since one of the customer representatives had told him he could.

And after he put the baggage through, the woman appeared on the videotape with arms folded, giving directions to the next passenger. She claimed that after her interaction with Trebek, she was in excruciating pain, but there was no indication of that on the tape.

Trebek Scrawled Down Name

"She said also that that was the last time she and I had any contact with each other," Trebek said. "But that's not true because I went around behind the security person and I called her over and I said may I have your name, please. And she pointed to her name tag and I wrote it down, and then I went upstairs to the red carpet lounge where I complained to a supervisor about this event."

Trebek said he told the supervisor that he was disappointed in the airline, both as a paying customer, and as a stockholder.

Trebek said he is not sure if Andrade's hand ever hit the X-ray machine as she claimed.

"I have no idea. To this day I don't know how she would have gotten injured," Trebek said. "The only thing I can think of is when I folded the bag the first time and it got caught in the door and I yanked it out, the door flew up. So her hand would have had to be above the door rather than below the door in order to get injured."

Case Dismissed

But after his deposition, Trebek's attorneys gave Andrade's attorney a copy of the videotape because they had not seen it.

"And all of a sudden things changed and we scheduled an appointment with her for medical exam with our doctor," Trebek said. "And she didn't show up for that. "

His attorney went to court on April 11 and got a court order command compelling Andrade to appear for the medical exam. The next day, April 12, her attorney filed a motion to dismiss.

If not for the videotape, Trebek said he is not sure how the case might have gone.

"The chances are 50-50 and maybe even better than 50-50 because it's a question of he said, she said," Trebek said. "People who don't like me too much are going to believe her side. People are going to say well, you know, he's another show biz personality who's trying to get special treatment from the airlines," Trebek said.

And now that the lawsuit has ended, ABCNEWS' Elizabeth Vargas asked Trebek the next burning question: What happened to the trademark moustache he has worn for 35 years?

Trebek said he shaved it on "a whim."

"And [it] may be gone for quite a while, I don't know for how long. But I feel a little naked without it," he said.