Stuart R. Ross, who bought the rights to the animated blue characters in the 1970s and launched them in the U.S., was arrested in 2008 and accused of attempting to extort money from his wealthy son-in-law David Blitzer.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny and was held without bail following a court hearing last month (May10).
A judge in New York has now granted Ross' request to act as his own attorney and offered him release from jail on a $200,000 (£133,333) bond - but Ross is apparently unable to come up with the money after making some "bad investments".
Ross, a former lawyer, also told the court he has been diagnosed with leukaemia. He will be back in court on 28 June (10) for a pre-trial hearing, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
Ross acquired the rights to The Smurfs after discovering the cartoon characters on a trip to Europe and launched them in America with a TV show, merchandise and 1983 film The Smurfs and the Magic Flute. The characters will be back on the big screen next year (11) in a live action film starring Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Hank Azaria.