updated 1/6/2009 3:55:13 PM ET 2009-01-06T20:55:13

Federal prosecutors intend to charge a former security contractor for Blackwater USA in the killing of an Iraqi guard in 2006, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Attorney Stewart Riley said he received a letter from prosecutors outlining their intent to charge his client, Seattle resident Andrew Moonen. Riley declined to discuss the letter any further or say if it revealed what charge the U.S. attorney's office is contemplating, but said he has neither received nor made any plea offer for Moonen.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle, Emily Langlie, declined to comment Tuesday.

Riley said he does not expect any formal developments before March.

Moonen, a former Army Ranger, was wandering drunk around Baghdad's Green Zone after a Christmas Eve party in 2006 when he encountered and fatally shot Raheem Khalif, a 32-year-old guard for Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, according to a congressional report.

Moonen, now 28, reported the shooting at a nearby post for another security contractor, Triple Canopy, saying he had been in a gunfight with Iraqis.

Blackwater arranged to have the State Department fly him back to the United States, fired him and fined him, and paid the slain guard's family $15,000.

That outraged many Iraqis, who questioned how an American could kill someone in those circumstances and return to the U.S. a free man.

By U.S. order, the contractors at that time were immune from Iraqi law. But the U.S. Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 provides that any member of the military, Department of Defense worker or contractor, or anyone "supporting the mission of the Department of Defense overseas," can be prosecuted in the U.S. for crimes committed abroad. Blackwater had a State Department contract to provide security.

Five other Blackwater contractors were indicted last month in Washington, D.C., on manslaughter and other charges stemming from the killing of at least 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

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