DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Detroit-area labor activist charged with stealing money from a school district no longer can afford his attorney and wants taxpayers to pay for his defense.

Robert Davis is charged with stealing $125,000 from the struggling Highland Park school district. He’s accused of using companies to submit false invoices and then taking a cut of the cash while on the school board.

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Doug Mullkoff, who has been representing Davis since last fall, is asking a federal judge to make him court-appointed counsel at public expense. The judge is expected to make a decision by the end of the month.

Davis tried to get the school board’s insurance company to pay for his lawyer, but the company declined. His trial is set to begin Feb. 24.

According to the 16-count grand jury indictment, Davis schemed to obtain more than $125,000 from the Highland Park School District between 2004 and 2010.

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One scheme involved the submission of false invoices for purchases in excess of $380,000 for advertising on behalf of the school district. The other involved the submission of false invoices in excess of $49,000 for services and expenditures relating to a Saturday educational program for district students.

Davis allegedly concealed his involvement with the companies, whose names appeared on the invoices, and concealed the fact that he took a substantial portion of the payments for his own use. Davis is accused of using the stolen cash to fund spending sprees at car dealerships, hotels, bars, restaurants and custom-clothing stores.

Davis, who is known for repeatedly suing Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit officials to stop the use of emergency managers,  has said he is “not guilty of the charges” and called the case politically motivated.

If found guilty of all counts, Davis  faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each count.

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