Attorney James I. Burkhardt, accused of conspiring with operators of a prostitution ring to bribe former Alexandria prosecutor William L. Cowhig, yesterday strongly denied making any payoffs.

Testifying for nearly two hours in his own defense, the 49-year-old Burkhardt replied "absolutely not" when asked whether he ever considered bribing Cowhig or other city officials to buy protection for the ring's activities.

Burkhardt, a former president of the Alexandria bar association, said he provided legal adivce to Louis Michael Parris, the head of the lucrative prostitution ring, but took no part in helping Parrish carry out his illegal sex business.

Parrish, the owner of a string of massage parlors that authorities said earned $1 million a year, was convicted on prostitution charges last year.

"When I first got into this, I didn't even know what a massage parlor was," Burkhardt testified yesterday in the third day of his trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Wearing a conservative gray suit and a shamrock pin in the lapel, Burkhardt smiled at the jury as he took the witness stand.

Burhhardt, who is also charged with two counts of racketeering, stressed that he did not help Parrish's operation send prostitutes across state lines under the guise of providing an outcall dating service that went by the names "Dial Us" and "Foxy Lady."

"If they told me they were sending girls across state lines that would have been [the end of] it," he said under oath.

Several times during his testimony Burkhardt asked his two lawyers, Kenneth and Michael Robinson and J. Ronald Lynch, to provide him with legal papers to help him explain his remarks to the jury.

"You're arguing like a lawyer," defense attorney Robinson told Burkhardt at one point.

Burkhadrt's statements sharply contradicted earlier testimony by government witnesses who said he transmitted monthly $500 payoffs to Cowhig and helped Parrish operate his illegal sex business.

Parrish, 33, testified on Monday that he funneled the monthly cash payments for more than three years to Cowhig through Burkhardt. Parrish called Burkhardt "an intimate adviser on almost anthing I did."

Two former top Parrish associates convicted with Parrish on charges related to the prostitution ring, Larry J. Waldon, 32, and Kathy Lynn Caldwell, 26, also testified that Burkhardt helped direct the sex business.

The defense has aruged that Parrish and his former associates "concocted" the allegations against their lawyer in hopes of getting reduced prison sentences for their cooperation in the prosecution of Burkhardt.

Robinson has called Wadino and Caldwell dupes for Parrish, whom he has characterized in court as being a violent, dishonest drug user.

Parrish testified he began making the alleged payoffs shortly after meeting with Burkhardt and Cowhig at a Crystal City restaurant in late 1974 -- a gathering at which Parrish claims Cowhig promised not to prosecute his operation for violating local massage parlor ordinanaces and state prostitution laws.

Burkahrdt yesterday acknowledged that the meeting took place, but said the purpose was to see if Parrish was interested in buying an interest in a hotel Cowhig owned in the Bahamas. "I suggested it might be an investment Mike [Parrish] might want to get into," Burkhardt said of the proposed hotel deal.

Burkhardt and Parrish agreed that Parrish decided against investing in Cowhig's hotel. But Parrsh said the purpose behind the hotel deal was to use it as a way to bribe Cowhig. He said he and Burkhardt decided that cash payoffs would be harder to trace than a hidden interest in the hotel.

Burkhardt testified that in late January 1975 he and Cowhig flew to the island of Exuma, Bahamas, in a private plane piloted by Cowhig to inspect the motel for Parrish.

The trip, Burkhardt said, turned out to be an "absolute disaster." The first problem occurred when his date for the weekend backed out at the last minute, he said. Burkhardt, who is married,yesterday acknowledged having affairs with several other women during the time he represented Parrish, including at least three women employed by Parrish.

After the woman canceled out of the Bahamas trip, Burkhardt said he went to two clients who ran a gasoline station and "I said do you know any girls who would like a free trip to the Bahamas." A woman employed at the station agreed to go, he said.

Wadino, then chief factotum to Parrish, provided a second woman whom he introduced to Burkhardt before the trip. "I said I'd like to see her before I took her down to the Bahamas," Burkhardt said, smiling.

When the two women, Burkhardt and Cowhig got to the Bahamas, they cut short their stay after someone stole $300 from Burkhardt, and Cowhig's hotel turned out to be a "shack," Burkhardt testified.

On the way back, he said, the plane blew a tire and almost ran out of gas. "I found out that Cowhig was not a very good pilot," Burkhardt recalled.

Burkhardt testified that on some occasions he paid to have sex with Parrish prostitutes, but denied that Parrish supplied him with women to compensate him for help in running the illegal sex business. "Don't be silly," he said in denying the government's allegation that he received free sex for his legal advice.

Burkhardt also denied Parrish's testimony that the two planned to offer payoffs to Alexandria City Attorney Cyril D. Calley during a proposed trip to Aruba, another Caribbean resort. Before the offer could be made to Calley, Parrish said, his operation was raided by the FBI in May 1978. t

Calley's office, which is separate from that of the city's chief prosecutor, was responsible for enforcing the city's massage parlor ordinances.

Called by the defense yesterday, Calley said he and Burkhardt, who he said was a longtime friend, discussed making several trips to Caribbean resorts, including Aruba. He said Burkhardt never mentioned any plan to bribe him, and he never received any payoffs.

Burkhardt also denied asking Wadino to commit perjury when Wadino testified in a 1975 rape case.

When he discussed the case with Wadino, Burkhardt said, he told the former Parrish employe "to tell the the truth." Wadino previously testified that he lied under oath in the rape case after Burkhardt asked him to do so as a favor to then-prosecutor Cowhig.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore S. Greenberg, who began questioning Burkhardt late yesterday, will resume cross-examination this morning.